'Artificial sweeteners may up obesity, heart disease risk'

Posted July 18, 2017

Researchers said scientific evidence does "not clearly support" that sweeteners help people to lose weight. Substances like stevia, sucralose, or aspartame might increase one's risk of becoming obese over the years.

Therefore, researchers warn everybody that artificial sweeteners are not what they seem, and they might lead to the apparition of certain health problems rather than their disappearance.

METHODS We searched MEDLINE, Embase and Cochrane Library (inception to January 2016) for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated interventions for nonnutritive sweeteners and prospective cohort studies that reported on consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners among adults and adolescents. In addition, people may be eating them unconsciously, in products like yogurt or granola bars.

To better understand whether consuming artificial sweeteners is associated with negative long-term effects on weight and heart disease, the researchers conducted a systematic review of 37 studies that followed over 4,00,000 people for an average of 10 years.

Article adapted from a Canadian Medical Association Journal news release.

ABC News' chief women's health correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton explained that any sweetener can trigger the same response from the brain, which could contribute to the long-term issues found in this study.

They also may not reflect how people behave in the real world. Publication bias was indicated for studies with diabetes as an outcome.

"These sweeteners could have negative effects and there is no strong evidence that they are beneficial".

Among the seven RCT's, regular consumption of sweeteners had no significant effect on weight loss.

Scientists out of the University of Manitoba are warning that they may be tied to long-term weight gain, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. There was a 32 percent higher chance of cardiovascular events for the heaviest versus lightest users.

The American Beverage Association (ABA), a trade group, disputed the study's conclusions. It also says that obesity is complex, with many causes and requiring "personalized, multifactorial and multidisciplinary approaches using a variety of tools". The findings may come as a shock to those who have always assumed that artificial sweeteners were the health alternative to consuming sugar. Sylvetsky Meni wasn't involved in this study, but was an author of the study on the prevalence of sweetener use.

The experiment is meant to investigate the hypothesis that artificial sweeteners shift the gut flora in a way that predisposes us to obesity.

"Sweeteners may have adverse effects on glucose metabolism, gut microbiota and appetite control".

Health sciences Prof. Meghan Azad was one of them, reaching for the low-calorie choices until she started researching them in detail. Swapping sugary drinks for diet drinks that contain artificial sweeteners may condition the body to expect calories, which makes people feel hungrier. Sylvetsky Meni doesn't think having a diet soda here and there is bad.

"Portion control works, diets in general - lean protein, high fruits, vegetables, watching the sugar - those work", Ashton said.