A new study conducted by a group of researchers from the University of Manitoba's George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation, along with the Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, suggests that artificial sweeteners may be linked with long-term weight gain and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
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. Emerging data indicate that artificial, or nonnutritive, sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting.
"We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management", said Ryan Zarychanski, assistant professor at the University of Manitoba.
While those who are obese were trying to use the artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners as part of weight-loss program, Azad found no consistent benefits in helping the needle go down on the scale or slimming the waist.
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.
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The trail showed no reliable effects of artificial sweeteners on the loss of weight. Some researchers speculate that the sweeteners interfere with a person's microbiome, a collection of gut bacteria crucial for the absorption of nutrients.
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Azad suggests that consumers who turn to artificial sweeteners on the assumption that they're a healthier choice should to be cautious.
Another issue with these studies is that they do not accurately represent how people use sweeteners in their real lives, due to the shortness of the studies.
Many people use artificial sweeteners. Observational studies, which are a lot longer in duration can do that much better but the drawback is that they only find associations and not causation. They may sharpen a sweet tooth, for example, prompting you to eat more sugary foods, or they may make you feel virtuous but then overcompensate later.
"More research is needed to determine the long-term risks and benefits of these products".
Other research has even pointed to artificial sweeteners disrupting the brain's sensors and feelings of satisfaction.
There's no evidence that artificial sweeteners alter the way the body processes sugar, she noted, and some research has shown that sugar substitutes do not make a person crave candies more.