Low-calorie beverages (LCBs) are promoted as healthy alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs); however, their effects on diet quality and cardiometabolic profile are debatable. This study aimed to verify the association between LCB consumption, diet quality and cardiometabolic risk factors in British adults. Data analysis from 5521 subjects aged 16 and older who participated in two waves of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Programme (2008–2012 and 2013–2014) was carried out. Compared with SSB consumption, LCB consumption was associated with lower energy (mean difference: -173 kcal, 95% confidence interval, CI: -212; -133) and free sugar intake (-5.6% of energy intake, 95% CI: -6.1; -5.1), while intake of other nutrients was not significantly different across groups. The % difference in sugar intake was more pronounced among the young (16–24 years) (-7.3 of energy intake, 95% CI: -8.6; -5.9). The odds of not exceeding the UK-recommended free sugar intake were remarkably higher in the LCB as compared to the SSB group (OR: 9.4, 95% CI: 6.5–13.6). No significant differences were observed in plasma glucose, total cholesterol, LDL, HDL or triglycerides. Our findings suggest that LCBs are associated with lower free sugar intake without affecting the intake of other macronutrients or negatively impacting cardiometabolic risk factors.
Analysing data from 5,521 adults participating in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS; 2008-2012 and 2013-2014), this study by Patel et al found that consumers of low calorie sweetened beverages had a better diet quality and higher chances of meeting the UK recommendation for free sugar intake, compared to consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB).
The study examined the association between low calorie beverage consumption, diet quality and cardiometabolic risk factors in British adults and found that, compared to the SSB group, consumers of low calorie beverages had a significantly lower energy intake as well as a diet lower in total sugar and free sugars, and increased odds of meeting current UK dietary guidelines on free sugar intake. Moreover, there were no differences in blood glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL, or HDL levels between the low calorie sweetened beverage group and the SSB group, or with the group of non-consumers.
What is particularly important is that the percentage of people meeting the UK recommendation for free sugar, while overall low, was remarkably higher in the low calorie sweetened beverage group as compared to the SSB group. This finding confirms the key role that low calorie sweetened foods and drinks can play in helping individuals to reduce their sugar intake in the context of recent public health and nutrition recommendations.