Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Many Health Issues

Representative pic for artificial sweetener

Representative pic for artificial sweetener

Researchers found substituting sugar could have a potentially negative impact on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity also cited as potential risk factors.

This is especially important as the number of people using artificial sweeteners, such as Aspartame and Sucralose, is increasing, Azad said. "Unfortunately, the quality of evidence that would support using sweeteners is not really strong", says Susan Swithers, a professor in the department of psychological studies at Purdue University who has also studied artificial sweeteners (but was not involved in the new study).

While evidence from small RCTs suggested inconsistent associations between the consumption of nonnutritive sweeteners and reductions in body weight, BMI or waist circumference, data from larger cohort studies with longer follow-up periods indicated that each of these measures as well as obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, stroke and CVD events were significantly related to nonnutritive sweetener intake, according to the researchers.

To better understand whether consuming artificial sweeteners is associated with negative long-term effects on weight and heart disease, researchers from the University of Manitoba's George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation conducted a systematic review of 37 studies that followed over 400 000 people for an average of 10 years.

Dr Meghan added: "Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterised". They are found in diet drinks or other similar products which people consume when they are trying to lower their sugar consumption and lose weight.

Other data suggests that people who regularly take sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose are more likely to develop health problems in the future.

Azad's study didn't look into what it is about artificial sweeteners that could be triggering increased risk of so many issues, it simply points to a link. Seven of the studies were randomized controlled trials that involved 1,003 people followed for six months on average.

One potential positive effect of artificial sweeteners - not mentioned in the study - is that they reduce the chances of tooth decay.

MORE: Artificial Sweeteners Aren't the Answer to Obesity.

"Different bacteria are selected and that change may influence how much weight you gain on a long-term basis", Azad said.

Other research has even pointed to artificial sweeteners disrupting the brain's sensors and feelings of satisfaction.

The findings can be found published online in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

For example, a person drinking a no-calorie soda might feel free to eat calorie-laden foods, Azad noted. However, the recent years have seen a host of studies emphasizing the downsides of artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners were the product of the need to provide a sweet experience to the ones who were supposed to steer clear of natural sugar.

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