A new study claims that artificial sweeteners have little or none benefits for health, and they don’t actually help people lose weight. A group of researchers analyzed two types of scientific research and concluded there is no substantial evidence artificial sweeteners impact people’s weight.
The study involved a comprehensive analysis of more than 11,000 studies related to the subject and discovered these sweeteners pose modest or none health benefits for overweight people or individuals with high blood pressure or diabetes.
The study, which focused on “nonnutritive sweeteners,” such as aspartame and sucralose, was published online July 17 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Review found nonnutritive sweeteners pose few or no benefits for people
Artificial sweeteners are consumed by millions of people worldwide. A study published earlier this year found that over a quarter of U.S. children and 41 percent of U.S. adults reported consuming artificial sweeteners, and most of them used them once a day.
Plus, even more people may be consuming them unknowingly in products like yogurt or granola bars.
“We were really interested in the everyday person who is consuming these products not to lose weight, but because they think it’s the healthier choice, for many years on end,” said Meghan Azad, lead author of the new study and research scientist at the University of Manitoba, according to NPR.
Azad noted more research is needed, but based on the information they gathered, there is no clear benefit for weight loss. In fact, the researchers even found there’s a potential association with increased weight gain, diabetes, and other cardiovascular issues, and nonnutritive sweeteners.
While previous studies suggested artificial sweeteners weren’t so healthy, Azad noted those studies were smaller in scope than the new study, and also focused on one outcome at a time, such as diabetes or weight gain.
However, Azad and her team wanted to take a comprehensive look at every cardio-metabolic diseases. So, to achieve that, the researchers looked at 11,774 published papers to look for studies evaluating the consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners in people aged 12 years or more.
Link between sweeteners and overweight, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease
After looking at thousands of studies, the team focused on 37 studies. Thirty of them were observational studies that tracked the health of nearly 405,000 people over the course of 10 years, while the remaining seven were randomized trials involving about 1,000 people.
In one of the randomized trials, scientists had asked half the participants to consume artificial sweeteners, while the other half was asked not to. The researchers were most interested in how the nonnutritive sweeteners may be associated with people’s body mass index, the worldwide measure to calculate body fat based on weight concerning height. But the team was also interested in papers that reported on obesity, weight gain, glucose metabolism, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and other heart- or kidney-related diseases.
After establishing their criteria, and selecting the studies most informative for their review, the team concluded that nonnutritive sweeteners didn’t substantially help people in those studies, and in a lot of cases, may have harmed them by causing health adversities.
For instance, in one of the randomized trials, some participants reported losing weight, but others had no significant weight loss over the six-month period. Also, when the team analyzed the 30 observational studies, they found a link between consuming these sweeteners and higher risks of gaining weight, becoming overweight or obese, or developing diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and other health problems.
As some of the people in the studies did report some benefits from the sweeteners, while others didn’t, researchers need to conduct more studies on these products, Allison Sylvetsky-Meni, told Live Science.
“I don’t think that they [nonnutritive sweeteners] are necessarily something people should be cautioned against, but they’re also, I don’t think, something that people should be encouraged [to consume] for weight loss,” said Sylvetsky, assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at The George Washington University who was not part of the new review. “We need to learn more about how they’re working, what they’re doing and how they affect different populations, if at all.”
Babies whose mothers consumed artificial sweeteners were more likely to be overweight
Azad said the new review was part of a larger effort to assess the effects of artificial sweeteners on the gut microbiome (bacteria and microbes in the gut), as well as their impact on cardio-metabolic health.
“In recent surveys from the United States, over 50 percent of adults are reporting that they consume these products on a daily basis,” said Azad, according to Live Science. “There is just not a lot of evidence out there for what the long-term impact might be.”
Previous research has shown that gut bacteria are less diverse in obese people than in people of healthy weight, according to Azad. She explained that seeing as gut microbiome plays a significant role in extracting energy from food or even producing vitamins, a less-diverse presence could contribute to weight gain.
Azad also published a study earlier this year that showed babies born from mothers who consumed artificial sweeteners were more likely to suffer from overweight by the time they reached one year of age.
Source: Live Science