Artificial sweeteners have little or no benefit to health

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TWO-thirds of Americans are overweight, and those who diet sometimes turn to alternative sweeteners including aspartame, sucralose and stevioside to cut calories. Now, a new review of many studies suggests that doing so might not be the best idea.
The scientists took a comprehensive look at more than 11,000 studies and found that, for overweight individuals or those with high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes, the benefits of consuming zero-calorie, “non-nutritive sweeteners” were modest to nil. For other people, there was an increased risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke and heart disease.
Now, a new review of many studies suggests that doing so might not be the best idea. The scientists took a comprehensive look at more than 11,000 studies and found that, for overweight individuals or those with high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes, the benefits of consuming zero-calorie, “non-nutritive sweeteners” were modest to nil. For other people, there was an increased risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke and heart disease.
“Overall, the evidence does not support the intended purpose of weight loss and suggests that there might be adverse effects in the long term,” said Meghan Azad, lead author of the review and an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba. Previous research had suggested that non-nutritive sweeteners were not the healthiest choice, but those studies were smaller in scope than the new review, and tended to focus on one outcome at a time, said Azad, who researches the development of chronic diseases.
“They would look only at weight gain, or only at diabetes,” Azad told Live Science. “But we wanted to be really comprehensive and look at the whole panel of cardio-metabolic diseases.”
To do so, Azad and her team screened 11,774 published papers, looking for studies that specifically evaluated the consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners in people ages 12 and older.
Some of the studies that the researchers looked at were randomized controlled trials, which are the strongest type of scientific evidence. In the trials, half of the participants were asked to consume the alternative sweeteners and the other half were asked not to, and the scientists looked for differences between the groups. The researchers also looked at observational studies, where patients were asked if they used non-nutritive sweeteners.

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