Dangers of artificial sweeteners confirmed

Fat man

Fat man

The studies followed more than 400,000 people for about 10 years. Only seven of these studies were randomised controlled trials (the gold standard in clinical research), involving 1,003 people followed for six months on average.

You may be reaching for artificial sweeteners thinking they're better for you because they have zero calories in drinks, sweets and other processed goods.

Now, a new review of many studies suggests that doing so might not be the best idea. It also says that obesity is complex, with many causes and requiring "personalized, multifactorial and multidisciplinary approaches using a variety of tools".

"Over 40 per cent of adults are reporting using artificial sweeteners on a regular basis", said Azad.

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Consumers may want to think twice about relying on artificial sweeteners, says a Manitoba researcher who found no evidence the sweeteners help with weight loss and some potential health harm beyond the waistline. "I think we are at a place where we can say that they don't help".

At her lab, Azad is now studying what happens when people are given artificially sweetened beverages for several weeks.

But new research reveals that artificial sweeteners - such as aspartame, sucralose and stevioside - actually cause long-term weight gain and increase your risk of a slew of health problems such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. More research is needed to understand the long-term effects. "You need a long-term study".

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

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It turned out that many diet foods and drinks containing sugar substitutes, on the contrary, provoke weight gain, not loss. Some researchers also believe that sweeteners may interfere with the body's mechanisms for metabolizing sugar.

So far, research has not yielded definitive answers.

Findings of the study were dismissed by industry bosses, who said the no-kilojoule ingredient had been "deemed safe" by health regulators across the world. For instance, the effects of synthetic versus natural low calorie sweeteners have not been thoroughly explored. "Individualized strategies are critical for successful body weight management and should address not only dietary preferences, but also physical activity, and medical considerations to help each person achieve their health goals, including those related to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and hypertension". "They're shifting calories to other foods", Azad explained. "If you are using a little bit, it's probably not a big deal". She uses a variety of artificial sweeteners in her coffee, tea, cereal, on bitter fruit, in smoothies and in baking. "It really affects everybody", she said.

"There's no clear benefit and there's potential for harm, so for me, it's worth it to just choose water instead", Azad said.

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