Low Calorie Beverage Consumption Is Associated with Energy and Nutrient Intakes and Diet Quality in British Adults

Publication Name: Nutrients, 2016 Jan; 8(1): 9.

Author(s): Gibson SA, Horgan GW, Francis LE, Gibson AA and Stephen AM. | Publication Year: 2016


It is unclear whether consumption of low-calorie beverages (LCB) leads to compensatory consumption of sweet foods, thus reducing benefits for weight control or diet quality. This analysis investigated associations between beverage consumption and energy intake and diet quality of adults in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) (2008–2011; n = 1590), classified into: (a) non-consumers of soft drinks (NC); (b) LCB consumers; (c) sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumers; or (d) consumers of both beverages (BB), based on 4-day dietary records. Within-person data on beverage consumption on different days assessed the impact on energy intake. LCB consumers and NC consumed less energy and non-milk extrinsic sugars than other groups. Micronutrient intakes and food choices suggested higher dietary quality in NC/LCB consumers compared with SSB/BB consumers. Within individuals on different days, consumption of SSB, milk, juice, and alcohol were all associated with increased energy intake, while LCB and tea, coffee or water were associated with no change; or reduced energy intake when substituted for caloric beverages. Results indicate that NC and LCB consumers tend to have higher quality diets compared with SSB or BB consumers and do not compensate for sugar or energy deficits by consuming more sugary foods.


The study by Gibson et al concluded that diet drinks’ consumers had a statistically significant better diet quality, which was similar to non-consumers, compared to sugar-sweetened beverage (SSBs) consumers. To study these associations, Gibson et al used data from 1590 participants of the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) to explore if people who consume low calorie sweetened beverages (LCBs) tend to follow healthier diets and have lower energy, saturated fats and sugars intake, not only compared to individuals who prefer SSBs but also versus people not consuming any kind of beverage at all (non-consumers) or those consuming both types of drinks.

Specifically, LCBs consumers had an identical mean total energy intake (1719 kcal/ day) as non-consumers (1718 kcal/day) and a significantly lower energy intake compared to SSBs consumers (1958 kcal/day) and consumers of both type of beverages (1986 kcal/day). Consumers of LCBs were more likely to be obese and have a higher mean BMI, however the counter-intuitive observation that LCB users are more likely to be overweight despite a lower reported energy intake than non-users is most likely attributable to reverse causality (overweight people turn to diet drinks in their efforts to reduce energy intake).