Artificial sweeteners linked to weight gain and health problems, study claims

Evrard Martin
Juillet 17, 2017

It's sugar-free and has no calories. However, this research from the University of Manitoba in Canada suggests long-term use could have the opposite effect.

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and stevia, are used to make numerous most popular soft drinks and according to researchers, consumption of them is widespread and increasing.

"There might be adverse effects of these sweeteners and there certainly isn't strong evidence they're beneficial".

People may also believe that because they haven't consumed calories, they have license to splurge elsewhere.

"Overall, the evidence does not support the intended objective of weight loss and suggests that there might be adverse effects in the long term", said Meghan Azad, lead author of the review and an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba.

Interest in the health effects of nonnutritive sweetners has grown over the years as public consumption of them has increased.

It turned out that many diet foods and drinks containing sugar substitutes, on the contrary, provoke weight gain, not loss. "It might be a good idea to avoid [artificial sweeteners]", Dr. Meghan Azad, a University of Manitoba professor and the study's lead author, told Global News.

Other hypotheses suggest they promote a preference for sweetness, leading to further consumption of sweet foods and beverages, or may lead people to indulge in other ways. If you choose a no-sugar-added ice cream, for instance, you may eat more of it. Some researchers also believe that sweeteners may interfere with the body's mechanisms for metabolizing sugar. Do the potential risks of sweeteners outweigh the risks of sugar itself?

"They would look only at weight gain, or only at diabetes", Azad told Live Science.

In Monday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Azad and her co-authors scrutinize 30 observational studies that followed more than 400,000 people in the general population for about a decade, as well as seven randomized trials of about 1,000 people with obesity who were followed for an average of six months. The rest were larger observational studies that examined participants over an average of 10 years.

Use of artificial sweeteners may be associated with weight gain and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, a study claims. Across the board in the studies, those who consumed more artificial sweeteners faced a "slight" increased risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions from excess body fat around the waist, increased blood pressure to abnormal cholesterol.

"Given the widespread and increasing use of artificial sweeteners, and the current epidemic of obesity and related diseases, more research is needed to determine the long-term risks and benefits of these products", Azad said. But that's a very different message than outright recommending sweeteners for weight loss or better health, she says.

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