With the obesity epidemic reaching new heights in America, people are looking for any way possible to cut their calories. Since weight gain has an association with increased consumption of sugary beverages like soda, some people choose to replace it with its “diet” equivalent.
Reducing meal sizes and getting enough exercise can be very difficult at times but essential for healthy weight loss. The term “diet” is often linked to weight loss in people’s minds and is one of the reasons they choose to drink diet soda.
However, according to a new study, artificial sweeteners found in diet soda and other products may be associated with long-term weight gain and an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, and stevia tend to be the go-to sweeteners for those watching their sugar intake. Now, this may come as a shock to most diet soda drinkers, but new data suggest that these sweeteners may have a negative effect on metabolism, gut bacteria, and appetite.
Researchers from The George and Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation at the University of Manitoba conducted a systemic review of 37 studies that followed over 400,000 people for an average of 10 years. The long-term effects of artificial sweetener consumption on weight gain and heart disease were the focus.
The study authors concluded that artificial sweeteners did not show a consistent effect on weight loss. Additionally, the longer observation studies demonstrated a link to an increased risk of weight gain and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues.
The researchers find this data to be quite troubling as the intended purpose of using these products is to assist in weight management, but their findings did not support this notion.
“Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterized,” said lead author Dr. Meghan Azad, an assistant professor in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba.
The researchers go on to say that despite having a decent number of participants in their review study, it pales in comparison to the millions of people that routinely use artificial sweeteners daily.
“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,” said Azad.