Artificial Sweeteners May Be Bad For Your Waistline and Your Heart

Fat man

From the other studies, the team found that regular use of sweeteners was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and modest increases in weight and waist circumferences.

Past research on these sweeteners shows a mixed bag of results, including links to weight gain, as well as links to weight loss, according to the authors of the new review.

Researchers sifted through more than 11,000 studies on sweeteners, including both artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and sucralose, and natural options like stevia, to find the highest quality and longest-term research.

Researchers from the University of Manitoba warned against the long-term health impact of the sweeteners which have no nutritional value.

In Monday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Azad and her co-authors scrutinize 30 observational studies that followed more than 400,000 people in the general population for about a decade, as well as seven randomized trials of about 1,000 people with obesity who were followed for an average of six months.

He agrees with Azad's call for more research into the matter. "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.

The intended benefits of artificial sweeteners - that is, weight loss and decreased obesity risk - were not observed among the overall findings.

In the meantime, Azad thinks the lack of proven benefit and questions about harm should give pause to people who choose sweeteners because they think they're healthful substitutes for sugar.

Health sciences Prof. Meghan Azad was one of them, reaching for the low-calorie choices until she started researching them in detail.

When we also consider that a 2006 study by the National Cancer Institute of over half a million older adults concluded that there was no increased risk of cancer between those who drank diet drinks and those who did not, the evidence against the safety of artificial sweetners doesn't really stack up.

Last year, a University of Texas study suggested that diet soda, for example, added 0.8 inches to occasional diet soda drinkers, and 3.16 inches to daily drinkers.

Considering that two-thirds of all adults in the US are overweight and about one-third are obese, many Americans are interested in shedding a few pounds. 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. Or the sweet taste paired with no calories may confuse the body and change how it handles real sugar, as has been shown in lab animals. But that's a very different message than outright recommending sweeteners for weight loss or better health, she says.

Human trials concluded that there were no significant differences observed on insulin levels between groups consuming diet drinks and those consuming water.

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