Artificial sweeteners linked to variety of health issues

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Artificial sweeteners linked to variety of health issues

In a new report, researchers set out to understand the long-term negative effects of artificial sweeteners. (Photograph: Monika Wisniewska/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Tue. 25. July 2017


WINNIPEG, Canada: Thought of by some as the perfect replacement for anyone looking to cut back on real sugars, while still getting that golden crispy kick, the artificial sweetener was the perfect choice.

Marketed as a healthy alternative, things like sugar-free drinks supposedly allowed people to have their cake and eat it too. However, according to a recent study released by the Canadian Medical Association, the once considered sweet salvation may not be as healthy alternative as first thought.

Researchers from the University of Manitoba's George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation set out to better understand if there were negative long-term effects on weight gain and heart disease in people who consumed artificial sweeteners. The study included a systematic review of 37 studies that followed over 400,000 people for an average of 10 years—of which 7 of the studies were randomized controlled trials (the gold standard in clinical research) involving 1,003 people who were followed for an average of 6 months.

Initial results did not show a consistent effect on weight loss, while the longer observational studies showed a link between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and relatively higher risks of weight gain and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues.

“Despite the fact that millions of individuals routinely consume artificial sweeteners, relatively few patients have been included in clinical trials of these products,” said author Dr. Ryan Zarychanski, an assistant professor at the university's Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. Zarychanski added, “We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management.”

Lead author and assistant professor Dr. Meghan Azad said, “Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterized. 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.”

Azad and her team are now undertaking a new study in order to understand how artificial sweetener consumption by pregnant women may influence their babies’ weight gain, metabolism and gut bacteria.

The study, titled “Nonnutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies”, was published online on 17 July in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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