Artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame, sucralose and stevia) may be associated with long-term weight gain and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Researchers from the University of Manitoba conducted a systematic review of 37 studies that followed over 400,000 people for an average of 10 years.
The longer observational studies showed a link between consumption of artificial sweeteners and relatively higher risks of weight gain and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues.
Other research indicates that artificial (or nonnutritive) sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Ryan Zarychanski, said: ‘Despite the fact that millions of individuals routinely consume artificial sweeteners, relatively few patients have been included in clinical trials of these products. We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management.’
‘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. Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterised.’