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Published: Wed, July 19, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Health Alert: Artificial sweeteners may cause obesity, heart disease risk

Health Alert: Artificial sweeteners may cause obesity, heart disease risk

With the prevalence of anti-sugar campaigns, Azad said more research needs to be done on sugar's substitute.

Broadly speaking, fake sugars work by tricking our taste buds into thinking that they've detected sugar, but they're made out of chemicals that our bodies can't break down, so we get no weight gain-inducing calories (or any nutritional value) from them.

Interest in the health effects of nonnutritive sweetners has grown over the years as public consumption of them has increased.

Azad also published a study earlier this year that showed babies born from mothers who consumed artificial sweeteners were more likely to suffer from overweight by the time they reached one year of age. She explained that seeing as gut microbiome plays a significant role in extracting energy from food or even producing vitamins, a less-diverse presence could contribute to weight gain.

"Some people are probably consuming them without knowing it", she said, noting artificial sweeteners are in some foods people wouldn't expect, such as salad dressings and yogurts.

However, researchers are continuing to evaluate the interaction between the sweeteners and our bodies - whether the sweeteners have an effect on gut bacteria or can change the metabolism.

One potential positive effect of artificial sweeteners - not mentioned in the study - is that they reduce the chances of tooth decay.

But surely a diet pop is a wiser choice than regular pop? 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.

Dr. Shearer adds there's a large industry of diet and sugar-free products that has an interest in discrediting any findings of possible health risks. Among these studies, only 7 were randomized controlled trials (the gold standard in clinical research) and those studies involved 1003 people, who were followed for an average of 6 months.

At the same time, the combined data from 30 observational studies involving more than 400,000 participants showed that artificial sweeteners are associated with obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart health problems.

"What we found was that at the end of the day, from all of this research, there really wasn't firm evidence of a long-term benefit of artificial sweeteners". There are now five FDA-approved artificial sweeteners out there. "And there was some evidence of long-term harm from long-term consumption", Azad said.

The organization said the acceptable daily intake for aspartame is 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

The study highlights the fact that more research needs to be conducted before "the long-term risks and benefits of these products are fully characterized". She offered this advice: "I'm going to say that you should drink water".

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