Artificial sweeteners’ ‘negative effects’

Emerging data indicate that artificial, or non-nutritive, sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting. PHOTO | INTERNET SOURCES

What you need to know:

  • Only seven of these studies were randomised controlled trials (the gold standard in clinical research), involving 1,003 people followed for 6 months on average.
  • 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.

Artificial sweeteners may be associated with long-term weight gain and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal says, the publication wrote in a press release on Monday.

Consumption of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and stevia is widespread and increasing.

And emerging data indicate that artificial, or non-nutritive, sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting.

To better understand whether consuming artificial sweeteners is associated with negative long-term effects on weight and heart disease, researchers from the University of Manitoba’s George and Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation in Canada conducted a systematic review of 37 studies that followed more than 400,000 people for an average of 10 years.

Only seven of these studies were randomised controlled trials (the gold standard in clinical research), involving 1,003 people followed for 6 months on average.

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.

“Despite the fact that millions of individuals routinely consume artificial sweeteners, relatively few patients have been included in clinical trials of these products,” one of the paper’s author Ryan Zarychanski, assistant professor at the University of Manitoba’s Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, says.

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

Lead author Meghan Azad, assistant professor at the same faculty, says: “Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterised”.

The study is titled “Non-nutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials and prospective cohort studies”. It was conducted by researchers from the George and Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation and the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba.

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