Artificial Sweeteners don't help people lose weight, study finds

Kristen Gonzales
July 18, 2017

New Canadian research has found a link between artificial sweeteners and a range of health problems, including long-term weight gain and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Artificial sweeteners don't do anything for weight loss, a new review states, contradicting the theory that using these gives the same sweetness as sugar, but without the added calories.

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. And in general, more Americans are ingesting artificial sweeteners than ever- one study, for example, suggested that American children's consumption of artificial sweeteners went up by 200% from 1999 to 2012.

The researchers assessed 938 full-text articles, before narrowing that to conduct a systematic review of 37 studies that followed more than 400,000 people for an average of 10 years.

Most of the other research were "cohort studies" where the diet and health outcomes in large groups of people are followed over many years. "There is increasing scientific evidence that these sweeteners promote metabolic dysfunction", said Sabyasachi Sen, an associate professor of medicine and endocrinology at George Washington University, and the principal investigator.

At her lab, Azad is now studying what happens when people are given artificially sweetened beverages for several weeks.

People are increasingly consuming artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose as well as the non-nutritive sweetener stevioside, derived from the stevia plant.

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The team found the clinical trials did not show a clear benefit or a consistent effect on weight loss, despite often being promoted for this reason.

Both types of studies have their pluses and limitations. Some turn to aspartame, sucralose or other artificial sweeteners to satiate their sweet tooth while losing weight. "So a reasonable assumption is, 'OK, I'll use a sugar substitute.' This says maybe don't make that immediate substitution before we have evidence".

Finally, your gut microbiome - a collection of hundreds of types of bacteria - is altered by artificial sweeteners.

The other school holds that artificial sweeteners might influence the body itself in some as-yet-unknown way, Azad said.

Another possibility is that our bodies have evolved to metabolize sugars in a way that's triggered not by calories or the sugar molecule but by the perception of sweet taste. In fact, the dosages used in the 2005 study, if applied to human subjects, would have required the equivalent of a daily intake of over 2000 cans of diet drinks, a dosage which, in humans, is too unrealistic to be considered a legitimate health risk.

"The caution that the long-term effects of sweeteners are well understood", she stated through a press.

Many people use artificial sweeteners.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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