You may want to think twice about consuming artificial sweeteners again, according to a new study that connects them to long-term weight gain, increased obesity risk, and potential health dangers beyond one’s waistline.
Artificial sweeteners that include aspartame and sucralose are increasingly being added to food and beverages around the world, from diet soft drinks to baked foods.
To better understand artificial sweeteners' link to negative long-term weight and health, a team from University of Manitoba in Canada conducted a review of 37 studies following more than 400,000 individuals for 10 years on average. Seven of the studies were randomized controlled trials that involved 1,003 people followed for six months on average.
“We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management,” said study author Dr. Ryan Zarychanski in a statement, who warned that relatively few patients have been part of artificial sweeteners’ clinical trials despite their widespread use.
The team saw no consistent benefits in using artificial sweeteners for weight loss. Further, studies routinely suggested that intake may actually be associated with weight gain and obesity, cardiovascular conditions such as heart attacks and strokes, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.
“There’s no clear benefit and there’s potential for harm, so for me, it’s worth it to just choose water instead,” lead author and health sciences professor Dr. Meghan Azad said, calling for caution in using the products until the long-term health effects are fully established.
Azad’s team is now conducting a new study to see how artificial sweeteners consumed during pregnancy may affect babies’ weight gain, metabolism, and gut bacteria.
The findings were detailed in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
In a separate study published April, researchers found that people who consumed at least one artificially sweetened soda every day had three times the risk of suffering from ischemic stroke versus those who did not consume the beverages. Just one of these drinks a day, too, was tied to three times greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
In a 2016 study, artificial sweeteners potentially made people feel hungry, causing them to eat more.
Previous research explored an association among artificial sweeteners, obesity, and diabetes.
In a study conducted by researchers in Israel, the sweeteners were found to alter the gut bacteria involved in processes such as metabolism and food’s conversion into energy or stored fuel. This, in turn, could lead to a range of health issues.