Artificial Sweeteners Do Not Help You Lose Weight

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The intake of artificial sweeteners like, aspartame, sucralose and stevia have become widespread and increasing.

Scientists out of the University of Manitoba are warning that they may be tied to long-term weight gain, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. As it turns out, this theory is not correct after all, or at least, it is not as simple as we thought it was.

His colleague and lead author Dr Meghan Azad added: 'Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterized'.

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.

"In 2008, more than 30% of Americans reported daily intake of non-nutritive sweeteners and this proportion is increasing". These substances are not only ineffective when it comes to weight loss, but they might also lead to the development of heart disease or other metabolic problems, such as obesity.

Diabetes cropped up in most of the studies, too.

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Most of the participants in the randomized trials were on a weight-loss program, and taken together, the results showed no significant impact of sweetener use on body mass index.

Their study of nearly 4,400 adults also suggests diet drinks are more likely to cause strokes and dementia than those full of sugar. It could be by justifying a second helping of dinner because they saved the 165 calories they would have got from a can of Coke. These trials also tend to focus on people who are obese and want to lose weight, which is not the case for many people who use low-calorie sweeteners in the general population.

Other hypotheses suggest they promote a preference for sweetness, leading to further consumption of sweet foods and beverages, or may lead people to indulge in other ways. 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. This could be tampering with metabolism and predisposes you to weight gain. Emerging data indicate that artificial, or nonnutritive, sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, although the evidence is conflicting.

Thirty of the studies were observational, which have a greater risk of bias because artificial sweetener use is not randomly assigned and people who choose to consume sweeteners may be different from those who don't, in terms of socioeconomic, lifestyles and health-related factors. These days aspartame and sucralose aren't just in diet sodas and chewing gum but English muffins and toothpaste as well.

Another possibility, Azad said, is that we compensate and think that drinking a diet pop permits us to enjoy pizza and cake later.

One problems with some of the artificial sweetener research is that it had been funded by industry.

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