Health Care

Artificial Sweeteners Are Linked to Weight Gain-Not Weight Loss

Artificial Sweeteners Are Linked to Weight Gain-Not Weight Loss

It's sugar-free and has no calories. The results were published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The researchers assessed 938 full-text articles, before narrowing that to conduct a systematic review of 37 studies that followed more than 400,000 people for an average of 10 years.

The observational studies (larger, longer, and focused on healthy people consuming these substances in their regular diet) found that people who used low-calorie sweeteners were actually more likely to gain weight and to see an increase in their BMI and waist circumference. People may also believe that because they haven't consumed calories, they have license to splurge elsewhere.

To understand the effect of artificial sweeteners consumed by pregnant women on weight gain, metabolism and gut bacteria of their infants, a team at Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, under the lead author Dr. Meghan Azad, Assistant Professor, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, is undertaking a new study. Sylvetsky Meni wasn't involved in this study, but was an author of the study on the prevalence of sweetener use.

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Researchers found substituting sugar could have a potentially negative impact on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity also cited as potential risk factors.

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.

Other hypotheses suggest they promote a preference for sweetness, leading to further consumption of sweet foods and beverages, or may lead people to indulge in other ways.

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Another possibility is that our bodies have evolved to metabolize sugars in a way that's triggered not by calories or the sugar molecule but by the perception of sweet taste. Sylvetsky Meni doesn't think having a diet soda here and there is bad. Do the potential risks of sweeteners outweigh the risks of sugar itself? Dr. Swithers notes that those who are skeptical of the potential harms of nonnutritive sweeteners tend to point to the lack of causal evidence. Only 7 of these studies were randomized controlled trials (the gold standard in clinical research), involving 1003 people followed for 6 months on average. The most important of the numerous limitations of the studies was the fact that these randomized trials, such as the ones done in these studies, are short term usually and do not include as mean people to be able to confidently say that the sweeteners used are actually causing them harm or are being beneficial in any way. The data from the clinical trials did not support the anticipated benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management, she added.

But researchers have now linked them to weight gain and increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

"However, consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners has been paradoxically associated with weight gain and incident obesity".

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