Are these alternatives to sugar bad for your health?

The consumption of sweeteners not only does not contribute to weight loss, but in the long term it could promote obesity.

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucraloseappeared several decades ago as an alternative to sugar that could help fight or prevent overweight and diabetes.

However, more and more studies They wonder not only about its effectiveness but also about its impact on health. We tell you about the latest data that scientists are manipulating and the different avenues of research they are working on to explain why sweeteners could promote obesity and various disorders associated with it.

Do artificial sweeteners help you lose weight?

A team of researchers from the University of Manitoba (Canada) analyzed more than 11,000 studies published in recent years. Among them, they decided to focus their work on the review of seven clinical trials and 30 long-term studies.

Data from clinical trials have shown that the consumption of artificial sweeteners did not cause significant weight loss in more than 1,000 people who participated. Sugar substitutes had no impact on participants’ body mass index (BMI).

Body mass index is one of the tools used to find out if a person is of adequate weight. It is calculated by dividing the weight (in kilograms) by the height (in meters) squared. In the case of an adult, if the result is equal to or greater than 25, he is considered overweight. And if it is equal to or greater than 30, obesity.

“Clinical trials are considered the standard of medical research”, explains Dr. Meghan Azad, head of the work and professor at this Canadian university. Therefore, the data were considered sufficiently large to also analyze what happened in the long-term studies.

health risks of artificial sweeteners

The scientists reviewed data from over 400,000 people who had participated in these 30 studies and who were followed for an average of 10 years. And what they found was that the consumption of sweeteners not only did not contribute to weight loss, but in the long term, this could promote obesity.

Although more research is needed to prove a causal relationship, the authors of this review found that participants who artificial sweeteners consumed regularly had a higher long-term risk of obesity-related diseases, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

However, Canadian research is not alone in knowing the possible dangers of artificial sweeteners. These are not isolated studies. but of systematic reviews of all the studies published on the subject carried out between 2016 and 2017″confirms Eduard Baladia, of the Journal of Scientific Evidence of the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

In addition to an increase in body weight, “These review studies also indicate a possible relationship between consumption of noncaloric sweeteners and increased metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, among others”, adds this dietitian-nutritionist.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of disorders which increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It is characterized by:

  • Hypertension.
  • High blood sugar (prediabetes).
  • High levels of triglycerides.
  • Low levels of “good” cholesterol or HDL.
  • Excess fat in the abdominal region, around the waist.

Several of the studies commented on by Baladia were carried out on the consumption of soft drinks and suggest that both those containing sugar and those artificially sweetened would be associated with a greater risk of suffering from these pathologies. “The greatest consumption of sweeteners is through sugary drinks and energy drinks”, warns the expert.

Therefore, to avoid possible risks, it is advisable “return to drinking water, review all unhealthy behaviors and modify them little by little, in the hands of an expert”.

What are the harmful effects of artificial sweeteners?

Although the mechanism by which artificial sweeteners promote these disorders is not yet very clear, underlines Canadian researcher Meghan Azad several hypotheses on which they work:

  • They change the taste. Although they are calorie-free, artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar. Aspartame, for example, is 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar. For this reason, according to Azad, its consumption can encourage a sweet tooth.
  • relaxation of habits People who often consume artificial sweeteners or products containing them tend to think that they compensate for other unhealthy foods or that they can take more quantity “because they don’t have total calories”. For the dietitian-nutritionist Eduard Baladia, “The most likely explanation is that people who choose to consume sugary drinks, for example, have a poorer lifestyle”.
  • They alter the intestinal flora. This other theory holds that artificial sweeteners could alter gut bacteria and how they are involved in the digestion of food, affecting the body’s metabolism.“It is possible that people who take a lot of non-caloric sweeteners, as is often the case if many sugary drinks are consumed, have their intestinal flora modified and, consequently, metabolic markers are altered”explains Baladia, although he thinks this hypothesis is less likely.

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