Put down the Stevia, it’s time to talk about whether or not all those artificial sweeteners are what their commercials imply they are (i.e. a healthier alternative to sugar). While, yes, artificial sweeteners boast far lower (or zero) calories, that little number might be the least of your worries. New research by the University of Manitoba and published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that not only do sweeteners not assist in weight loss, but long-term use can actually cause weight gain and other health risks.
Researchers looked at 37 previous studies on common ‘nonnutritive sweeteners’ like aspartame, sucralose and stevioside and found that regular and prolonged use is linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They also found that sweeteners might have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite.
According to head author of the paper, Meghan Azad, there is actually a surprising lack of research into sweeteners, considering how common they’ve become. Evidence is especially lacking when it comes to the long-term impacts. Azad says that research has yet to prove a solid cause and effect look into the differences between sweeteners and provide a concrete explanation for why these sweeteners can have negative effects on health.
At this point, researchers are encouraging people to be mindful of how often they are consuming artificial sweeteners, especially if they do so on a daily basis. The global increase in sweetener use has been largely due to research into the harmful effects of excess sugar — which has been proven. There isn’t enough evidence currently though to determine if one is better than the other. Unfortunately, it looks like the big takeaway here might be to cut down on both sugar and sweeteners in the name of health. Man, we were really hoping there was some kind of miracle sweetener out there. Oh well.