Artificial sweeteners linked to risk of weight gain, heart disease and other health issues

July 17, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Artificial sweeteners may be associated with long-term weight gain and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, according to a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Consumption of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and stevia, is widespread and increasing. Emerging data indicate that artificial, or nonnutritive, sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, 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 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. Only 7 of these studies were randomized controlled trials (the gold standard in clinical research), involving 1003 people followed for 6 months on average.

The trials did not show a consistent effect of artificial sweeteners on weight loss, and the longer observational studies showed a link between consumption of artificial sweeteners and relatively higher risks of weight gain and obesity, , diabetes, 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, Assistant Professor, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. "We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management."

"Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterized," said lead author Dr. Meghan Azad, Assistant Professor, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. Her team at the Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba is undertaking a new study to understand how artificial consumption by pregnant women may influence , metabolism and gut bacteria in their infants.

"Given the widespread and increasing use of , and the current epidemic of obesity and related diseases, more research is needed to determine the long-term risks and benefits of these products," said Azad.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Manitoba's George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation and the Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Explore further: Sugar substitutes may cut calories, but no health benefits for individuals with obesity

More information: Canadian Medical Association Journal (2017).

Related Stories

Sugar substitutes may cut calories, but no health benefits for individuals with obesity

May 24, 2016
Artificial sweeteners help individuals with obesity to cut calories and lose weight but may have negative health effects, according to researchers at York University's Faculty of Health.

Study investigates absorption of artificial sweeteners in blood

October 24, 2016
A recent study by investigators at the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health measured how much artificial sweetener is absorbed into the blood stream by children ...

Low-calorie sweeteners promote fat accumulation in human fat

April 3, 2017
Low-calorie, artificial sweeteners appear to play havoc with the body's metabolism, and large consumption of these sugar substitutes could promote fat accumulation, especially in people who are already obese, preliminary ...

Drinking diet beverages during pregnancy linked to child obesity, study suggests

June 6, 2017
Children born to women who had gestational diabetes and drank at least one artificially sweetened beverage per day during pregnancy were more likely to be overweight or obese at age 7, compared to children born to women who ...

The dark side of artificial sweeteners

July 10, 2013
More and more Americans are consuming artificial sweeteners as an alternative to sugar, but whether this translates into better health has been heavily debated. An opinion article published by Cell Press on July 10th in the ...

Artificial sweeteners hit sour note with sketchy science

September 26, 2016
University of Sydney researchers have confirmed widespread bias in industry-funded research into artificial sweeteners, which is potentially misleading millions by overstating their health benefits.

Recommended for you

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2017
But glucose is very important for brain functioning. This has also been proven through brain studies.
4 / 5 (4) Jul 17, 2017
Which part of 'artificial' didn't you understand?
5 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2017
Normal white sugar consumed is not really that dangerous, unless one starts storing it as fat. Artificial or not, sugar is needed for the brain.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2017
Some items are like a Pendulum. 1 day O.K, The other day, Nope!
Some items are not like that ....Ever Evolving.
For Ex: Recent News....on Cellphone Cameras getting rid of Lenses. Size Reduction From currently Tablet Sized Cameras to DUST Sized Cameras using NEW OPA Technology !
Ultra-thin optical phased array (OPA), array composed of just 64 light receivers in an 8 by 8 grid. Processed optical signal to be passed down the waveguide to further photodiodes converting it into an electrical signal, which is used to create the final photo.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2017
@betterexists that's some fine word salad you have there
not rated yet Jul 17, 2017
hmmm... Is the artificial sweetener the cause, or the effect?
not rated yet Jul 18, 2017
Without a proposed mechanism of how each these very chemically different sweeteners bring about an equally different wide array of disease presentations - "weight gain and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues." this article's lack of sound scientific basis is embarrassing close to pure speculation and probably more related to grant seeking..

Today we are beset by countless meta analyses (almost to the point of replacing actual empirical science) where statistics are used to generate patterns whether causality exists or not. It is interesting to note that in general all of the diseases and or conditions are also associated with just being overweight and the poor eating choices and inactive lifestyles that generally go with being over weight. As I remember it, "weight gain and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues." - were health problems long before artificial sweeteners came to market.
not rated yet Jul 18, 2017
The researchers have clearly established an assumption.
not rated yet Jul 18, 2017
Stevia is a natural product, is not an 'artificial' sweetener. I sense a corporate attempt to bring down the natural product along with the very nasty, unnatural products they have been putting in our food for decades now.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.