Study finds link between artificial sweetener

by Barbara Hewitt on July 18, 2017

A study has found a link between artificial sweeteners and long term weight gain associated with diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

A team of researchers from the University of Manitoba in Canada decided to look at the consumption of artificial sweeteners as emerging data has indicated that artificial, or non-nutritive, sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting.


To better understand whether consuming artificial sweeteners is associated with negative long term effects on weight and heart disease, researchers from the university’s George and 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.

Seven of these studies were randomized controlled trials, the gold standard in clinical research, involving 1,003 people followed for six months on average.

The trials did not show a consistent effect of artificial sweeteners on weight loss, but the longer observational studies showed a link with 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, of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

‘We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management,’ he added.

There should be a cautious approach until the long term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterised, according to lead author Dr. Meghan Azad. Her team is also undertaking a study to understand how artificial sweetener consumption by pregnant women may influence weight gain, metabolism and gut bacteria in their infants.

‘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,’ she explained.

In the current study patterns were detected showing that those who consumed more artificial sweeteners faced a slight increased risk of metabolic syndrome and relatively higher risks of weight gain, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease from heart attacks to strokes, with diabetes found in most of the studies.

The study did not look into what it is about artificial sweeteners that could be triggering increased risk of so many issues, but points to a link. The researchers believe that a few mechanisms could be at play, including people thinking that by having a product with artificial sweetener means they can eat or drink more of other things.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ivan July 21, 2017 at 8:52 am

If you already have diabetes artificial sweeteners are better then sugar and have little side effects. The research team must not have diabetes.


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