Millions of people across the globe are increasingly using artificial sweeteners thinking these sugar substitutes could be the best answer to manage their weight and have overall positive impact on their health. But now a new study seeks to demystify this widely held belief — cautioning the consumers to have non-nutritive sweeteners at their own risk.
According to researchers from Canada’s University of Manitoba, artificial sweeteners may be associated with long-term weight gain and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
New data show that artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and stevia may have negative impact on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting.
The research team conducted a systematic review of 37 studies that followed over 400,000 people for an average of 10 years. They found that only seven of these studies were randomised controlled trials — considered to be the gold standard in clinical research. Besides, these trials involved only 1,003 people followed for around six months on an average.
“Despite the fact that millions of individuals routinely consume artificial sweeteners, relatively few patients have been included in clinical trials of these products,” said study author Dr Ryan Zarychanski from University of Manitoba.
“We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management,” he added.
According to study lead author Dr Meghan Azad from Manitoba, consumers need to tread with caution until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterised.
“Given the widespread and increasing use of artificial sweeteners, and the current epidemic of obesity and related diseases, more research is needed to determine the long-term risks and benefits of these products,” Dr Azad said.