Artificial Sweeteners Linked To Weight Gain and Other Health Woes Yet Again

Henrietta Strickland
July 17, 2017

About as harmless as water, right?

The new study adds to a growing body of research that suggests sugar substitutes are no magic bullet.

The review examined 37 studies on the topic, some of which were randomized trials, while others were observational studies.

But new Canadian research published Monday suggests that artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and stevia, may be doing more harm than good.

There was no link between sugary beverages and either of the illnesses - although the researchers aren't encouraging us to drink them either. "This research has made me appreciate that there's more to it than calories alone".

The available evidence suggests that sweeteners may help with weight loss if they are carefully used as a one-to-one replacement for sugar-sweetened drinks or foods as part of a structured weight-loss program, says Allison Sylvetsky Meni, an assistant professor in the department of exercise and nutrition sciences at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health.

US consumption of artificial sweeteners has increased dramatically over the past 15 years. There are also those who are not even aware that they are eating them in yogurts, granola bars, and similar products. "Low- and no-calorie sweeteners are among some of the most exhaustively researched ingredients in the world and have been approved as safe for consumption by government regulatory agencies worldwide, including the FDA [Food and Drug Administration]", says William M. Dermody, the ABA's vice president of policy. Some researchers speculate that the sweeteners interfere with a person's microbiome, a collection of gut bacteria crucial for the absorption of nutrients.

MORE: You Asked: Should I Count Calories? Highlighting just how much sugar is in our favourite fizzy drinks, they named and shamed the sweetest soft drinks and Lucozade was the worst offender.

At her lab, Azad is now studying what happens when people are given artificially sweetened beverages for several weeks. Sylvetsky Meni doesn't think having a diet soda here and there is bad. Do the potential risks of sweeteners outweigh the risks of sugar itself? 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. Dr. Swithers notes that those who are skeptical of the potential harms of nonnutritive sweeteners tend to point to the lack of causal evidence. These contain around 10 years' worth of information collected from over 400,000 participants.

'We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management'.

The trials did not show a consistent effect of artificial sweeteners on weight loss, and the longer observational studies showed a link between consumption of artificial sweeteners and relatively higher risks of weight gain and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues.

Diabetes cropped up in most of the studies, too.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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