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Artificial Sweeteners Have Been Linked To Weight Gain

17 July 2017, 05:14 | Winifred Adams

Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Justin Sullivan  Getty Images

Seven of these studies were randomized controlled trials, considered to be the gold standard in clinical research, which included 1003 people followed for 6 months on average.

The trials did not show a consistent effect of artificial sweeteners on weight loss.

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.

MORE: Artificial Sweeteners Aren't the Answer to Obesity.

Lead author Meghan Azad said: "Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterised".

"It's many factors together that make up a healthy diet and lifestyle".

Many people believe that artificial sweeteners can help you avoid piling on the pounds, but scientists say they may have negative effects on your metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite. As it turns out, this theory is not correct after all, or at least, it is not as simple as we thought it was. "We need to know what the artificial sweeteners do".

After looking at two types of scientific research, the authors conclude that there is no solid evidence that sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose help people manage their weight.

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"However, consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners has been paradoxically associated with weight gain and incident obesity". Some researchers speculate that the sweeteners interfere with a person's microbiome, a collection of gut bacteria crucial for the absorption of nutrients. Jane Shearer, an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Calgary who is studying these sweeteners, notes the number of products that contain sugar substitutes has grown significantly in Canada in the past five years, with energy drinks, no-sugar-added ice creams, yogurt and even some bread products.

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. If you choose a no-sugar-added ice cream, for instance, you may eat more of it.

The study was published July 17 in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). For instance, the effects of synthetic versus natural low calorie sweeteners have not been thoroughly explored.

Also, these chemicals led to more cardiovascular events or problems related to obesity.

The bottom line so far, says Swithers, is that cutting back on any and all sweeteners is probably a good idea. "If you are using a little bit, it's probably not a big deal".

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.



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