Published: Mon, July 17, 2017
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Artificial sweeteners may increase risk for weight gain, heart disease

Artificial sweeteners may increase risk for weight gain, heart disease

Other factors may muddle the link; people who consume more artificially sweeteners may eat more processed food, for example, which is linked to a higher risk for obesity or heart-related problems.

Consumption of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and the more recently popular stevia is on the increase, however evidence on their potential health effects of these sweeteners has so far been conflicting.

The authors noted that only seven of the 37 studies were randomised controlled trials - the gold standard in clinical research - involving 1,003 people followed for six months, on average.

"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. While the trial-based studies failed to show a consistent effect of artificial sweeteners on weight, the long-tail researches managed to draw a correlating pattern between artificial sweetener consumption and increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart ailments.

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"Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterized", Azad said in the release. Some researchers speculate that the sweeteners interfere with a person's microbiome, a collection of gut bacteria crucial for the absorption of nutrients.

She continued: "Researchers have suggested that non-nutritive sweeteners may have adverse effects on glucose metabolism, gut microbiota and appetite control".

Meanwhile, a reanalysis of the 30 longitudinal studies found that people who consumed low-calorie sweeteners on a regular basis were more susceptible to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure and stroke over time.

Experts now emphasize the need to move away from refined sugar and artificial sweeteners on to other natural and healthier alternatives. These days aspartame and sucralose aren't just in diet sodas and chewing gum but English muffins and toothpaste as well.

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He agrees with Azad's call for more research into the matter. Researchers wanted to look more broadly at what's going on by doing a large-scale analysis of dozens of studies on low-calorie sweeteners. She said the studies may have neglected other things that influence weight, such as exercise or overall diet.

The Calorie Control Council, a trade group whose members include artificial sweetener manufacturers, notes that randomized trials have not confirmed those associations with diseases.

Artificial sweeteners are substitutes for sugar that provides a sweet taste like that of sugar while containing significantly less food energy.

You've been watching your sugar intake lately, so you select a diet soft drink from the office pop machine for a cool, refreshing pick-me-up. Observational studies, which are a lot longer in duration can do that much better but the drawback is that they only find associations and not causation.

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