Artificial Sweeteners Have Been Linked To Weight Gain

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In a review published Monday (July 17), Canadian researchers analyzed (paywall) the results of 37 studies comparing the health outcomes of people who consumed real sugar against those who consumed only artificial sweeteners. However, other experts say there's not enough evidence to recommend abstaining from these sugar substitutes, noting they're approved by Health Canada. "This research has made me appreciate that there's more to it than calories alone".

Azad's research suggests that "long term consumption of sweeteners may have adverse effects".

Why would saccharine sugar lead to weight gain?

Which is healthier: Artificial sweeteners or sugar?

"Because of the widespread use of sweeteners, and their progress, as well as the epidemic of obesity and associated diseases, further research is needed to know the long-term risks and benefits of these products", said Meghan Azad.

"I think that the main takeaway is really just that we need more understanding of what might be going on physiologically", she said. If you choose a no-sugar-added ice cream, for instance, you may eat more of it. This is the only study design in human studies that does rise to the level of demonstrating cause and effect, and in the case of low calorie sweeteners' effect on body weight, evidence from RCTs is clear and consistent pointing to a modest benefit of low calorie sweeteners' use in weight loss and maintenance. Do the potential risks of sweeteners outweigh the risks of sugar itself?

Five artificial sweeteners are permitted for use in the United Kingdom: aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium (known as acesulfame K), cyclamate and sucralose. Dr. Swithers notes that those who are skeptical of the potential harms of nonnutritive sweeteners tend to point to the lack of causal evidence.

The combined seven clinical trials showed that artificial sweeteners had no impact on a person's body mass index (BMI), the researchers reported. These contain around 10 years' worth of information collected from over 400,000 participants.

A new University of Manitoba study says artificial sweeteners are linked to the risk of long-term weight gain, heart disease and other health issues. Furthermore, in most observational studies, adjustment for variables related to adiposity attenuates or diminishes the observed relations, leading to no significant associations anymore. In addition, the cohort studies showed that there was an association between nonnutritive sweetener consumption and increases in weight and waist circumference, as well as a greater prevalence of obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular events.

"Different bacteria are selected and that change may influence how much weight you gain on a long-term basis", Azad said. And read the full CMAJ study here.

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