Study Finds Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Weight Gain, Diabetes and Heart Disease

Francis Osborne
July 18, 2017

If we consider the research, outside of the 1 in 10,000 of us who suffer from the rare condition Phenylketonuria (who can not process the breakdown of Aspartame, ) use of diet drinks and sweetener-based products should not be considered a risk to our health, and we should be able able to enjoy them as part of our daily diets.

When we also consider that a 2006 study by the National Cancer Institute of over half a million older adults concluded that there was no increased risk of cancer between those who drank diet drinks and those who did not, the evidence against the safety of artificial sweetners doesn't really stack up.

Note for editors: For more information on low calorie sweeteners, please visit or contact the ISA Secretariat by clicking here.

Interest in the health effects of nonnutritive sweetners has grown over the years as public consumption of them has increased.

This is especially important as the number of people using artificial sweeteners, such as Aspartame and Sucralose, is increasing, Azad said.

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

"The caution that the long-term effects of sweeteners are well understood", she stated through a press. Or the sweet taste paired with no calories may confuse the body and change how it handles real sugar, as has been shown in lab animals.

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But surely a diet pop is a wiser choice than regular pop? That means getting used to plain or fruit-infused water, black coffee and plain yogurt mixed with fruit rather than products containing either added sugars or artificial sweeteners. But that's not how they're typically used, she says. Dr. Swithers notes that those who are skeptical of the potential harms of nonnutritive sweeteners tend to point to the lack of causal evidence. Among these studies, only 7 were randomized controlled trials (the gold standard in clinical research) and those studies involved 1003 people, who were followed for an average of 6 months. The rest were larger observational studies that examined participants over an average of 10 years.

While those who are obese were trying to use the artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners as part of weight-loss program, Azad found no consistent benefits in helping the needle go down on the scale or slimming the waist.

A new University of Manitoba study says artificial sweeteners are linked to the risk of long-term weight gain, heart disease and other health issues. Furthermore, in most observational studies, adjustment for variables related to adiposity attenuates or diminishes the observed relations, leading to no significant associations anymore. And it didn't seem to help high blood sugar, either.

Diabetes Canada includes nonnutritive sweeteners in its guidelines, citing Health Canada's acceptable daily intake values. And read the full CMAJ study here.

The other school holds that artificial sweeteners might influence the body itself in some as-yet-unknown way, Azad said.

"Portion control works, diets in general - lean protein, high fruits, vegetables, watching the sugar - those work", Ashton said.

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