Artificial sweeteners won't help you lose weight, study shows

Bryan Strickland
July 18, 2017

Yes, it's true, sugar isn't good for us - but scientists recently reviewed more than 11,700 studies and came to the conclusion that artificial sweeteners may not be any better.

Researchers sifted through more than 11,000 studies on sweeteners, including both artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and sucralose, and natural options like stevia, to find the highest quality and longest-term research.

However, these studies don't prove that the health problems are caused by the sweeteners.

They identified 30 cohort studies (n = 405,907) and seven RCTs (n =1,003) including more than 400,000 individuals who were followed for an average of 10 years and 6 months, respectively.

Rather than aiming to cut out artificial sweetners unnecessarily from our diets (a hard task, based on the prevalence of their use, ) let's consider the research.

As for insulin? Yes, studies have shown increased insulin release from consuming sweetners (bad news for avoiding diabetes, ) but again, only in studies conducted on rats.

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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. None of the randomized trials showed that artificial sweeteners helped anyone lose weight; conversely, participants in some of the observational studies who ate fake sugars actually gained a little bit of weight, and were about 14% more likely overall to develop type 2 diabetes. A systematic review, including meta-analyses, of the evidence from human and animal studies. Some turn to aspartame, sucralose or other artificial sweeteners to satiate their sweet tooth while losing weight.

Health sciences Prof. Meghan Azad was one of them, reaching for the low-calorie choices until she started researching them in detail.

Considering that two-thirds of all adults in the US are overweight and about one-third are obese, many Americans are interested in shedding a few pounds. Therefore, researchers developed this new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. "So a reasonable assumption is, 'OK, I'll use a sugar substitute.' This says maybe don't make that immediate substitution before we have evidence".

"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". Sales of diet soda drinks have dropped by almost 20% since 2009, according to market research group Euromonitor. The sweeteners could alter the way that gut microbes function in the digestion of food, or possibly change the body's metabolism over time by sending repeated false signals that something sweet has been ingested.

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

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