Study: Artificial sweeteners linked to weight gain, other health problems

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Using artificial sweeteners may be one way to limit sugar intake, but a new study finds that they’re still linked to weight gain, along with other heart-related ailments.

Researchers at the University of Manitoba in Canada reviewed the results of 37 previous longitudinal studies that had examined 400,000 individuals over the course of a decade, hoping to determine the effects of artificial sweeteners on various health markers.

Spoon in sugar
A new study finds that using artificial sweeteners may lead to weight gain and raise one’s risk of developing heart disease and other related conditions.

Instead of being associated with weight loss, it turns out that common sugar substitutes, including sucralose and aspartame, were actually linked to weight gain, the researchers found.

Other common health issues, such as increased risk of weight gain and obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease were also more prevalent among those who frequently consumed artificial sweeteners.

“Despite the fact that millions of individuals routinely consume artificial sweeteners, relatively few patients have been included in clinical trials of these products,” says author Dr. Ryan Zarychanski in a press release. “We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management.”

Other recent research has suggested that sugar substitutes may have a negative impact on one’s metabolism, gut bacteria, and appetite, although such findings are not definitive.

Ultimately, the researchers warn that the health impacts of consuming the substitutes are still somewhat unknown.

Pregnant mothers, for example, very well may pass on the adverse effects of sweeteners on to their offspring, which a new study is exploring.

“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,” says lead author Meghan Azad.

The study’s findings were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.