More research needed into the effects sugar substitutes have on health

More research needed into the effects sugar substitutes have on health

In addition, many people start using artificial sweeteners because they are already overweight and may already have developed diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and stevioside are growing increasingly popular as evidence mounts that sugar is fueling the obesity epidemic, Azad and colleagues write in CMAJ.

It's been an ongoing debate.

In others, these sweeteners could actually be harmful: Weight gain, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke were all potential risks.

Numerous clinical trials this study drew on didn't align closely with the way people consume such sweeteners in the real world - for instance, trials generally give subjects diet soda or sweetener capsules, while ignoring other sources, such as food. "They're shifting calories to other foods", Azad explained.

However, the use of sweetener did not prevent this result, and did not limit the ability to lose weight. That means that artificial sweeteners may not directly cause weight gain but they can affect the body's ability to manage the sugar that we do consume.

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To better understand whether consuming artificial sweeteners is associated with negative long-term effects on weight and heart disease, researchers from the University of Manitoba's George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation conducted a systematic review of 37 studies that followed over 400 000 people for an average of 10 years.

INTERPRETATION Evidence from RCTs does not clearly support the intended benefits of nonnutritive sweeteners for weight management, and observational data suggest that routine intake of nonnutritive sweeteners may be associated with increased BMI and cardiometabolic risk. Across the board in the studies, those who consumed more artificial sweeteners faced a "slight" increased risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions from excess body fat around the waist, increased blood pressure to abnormal cholesterol. Sylvetsky Meni doesn't think having a diet soda here and there is bad.

"The message is there isn't strong evidence for a benefit from these products - and there's potential evidence for harm", Dr. Azad said. So while more research does need to be done, it doesn't hurt to work on reducing the added stuff from your diet-whether zero-calorie artificial sweeteners or regular sugar. This could be tampering with metabolism and predisposes you to weight gain.

Human trials concluded that there were no significant differences observed on insulin levels between groups consuming diet drinks and those consuming water. Bottled-water consumption in the US hit 39.3 gallons per capita a year ago, while carbonated soft drinks fell to 38.5 gallons, marking the first time that soda was knocked off the top spot, according to recent data from industry tracker Beverage Marketing Corp.

At her lab, Azad is now studying what happens when people are given artificially sweetened beverages for several weeks.

Read Azad's full findings published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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