Can consuming artificially sweetened soft drinks help reduce colon cancer death and recurrence risks in patients? A Yale study says yes, and researchers want to take a closer look at artificial sweeteners’ health impacts.

Colorectal Cancer And Diet Cola

Researchers of a new study found that consuming diet or artificially sweetened soft drinks may be linked to significantly reduced risks of colon cancer death and recurrence. Their findings revealed that the patients who consumed one or more 12-ounce serving of artificially sweetened beverage a day reduced their cancer death or recurrence risk by 46 percent compared to those who don’t drink such diet soft drinks.

For the purposes of the study, “soft drinks” were classified as caffeinated colas, non-caffeinated colas, and other carbonated drinks such as diet ginger ale.

The researchers gathered their data from over 1,000 patients with stage III colorectal cancer, all of whom participated in a National Cancer Institute-supported clinical trial in which they were followed during chemotherapy between 1999 and 2001, and for the next seven years to track cancer recurrence and death. Participants of this trial were also given questionnaires regarding the consumption of over 130 different types of food and drinks.

Other studies also found similar reductions to cancer recurrence and death risks, but as a result of coffee and tree nut consumption. The researchers, however, chose to focus on artificially sweetened beverages because a previous study showed that consuming sugar sweetened beverages drastically increases the risk for colon cancer development. As such, they wanted to see if a change in lifestyle by consuming artificially sweetened beverages, even with advanced stage cancer, would affect cancer outcomes post-surgery.

Beverage Substitute

In a second analysis, researchers found that the benefit they observed in relation to artificially sweetened beverages is in part because the sugar-sweetened beverages were substituted with the artificially sweetened ones. According to researchers, this is in line with what is already known about colon cancer risk, in that it is linked to factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and a diabetes-linked diet.

“We now find that, in terms of colon cancer recurrence and survival, use of artificially sweetened drinks is not a health risk, but is, in this study, a healthier choice,” said Charles S. Fuchs, M.D. of the Yale Cancer Center, senior author or the study.

As a result of their findings, researchers note that it is now important to take a closer look at the real health impacts of artificial sweeteners. So far, there are concerns that the consumption of products that use artificial sweeteners may increase the risks for diabetes, obesity, and cancer. However, Fuchs states that studies linking artificial sweeteners to weight gain and diabetes are “mixed," and that the epidemiologic studies in humans have not established the connection between artificial sweeteners and cancer.

The study is published in PLOS ONE.

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