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Bad News For Artificial Sweeteners

Bad News for artificial sweetenersBy Dr. Gabe Mirkin

Several recent papers raise new concerns about the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners. In one study, researchers showed that a sweeter-tasting, lower-calorie drink caused people to eat more food, to have higher blood sugar levels and to be more likely to gain weight and become diabetic than a less-sweet, higher-calorie drink (Current Biology, August 11, 2017). Researchers controlled the sweetness of the drinks with the artificial sweetener sucralose, and the calorie content by adding tasteless maltodextrin. Results of the study suggest that a sweeter-tasting, lower-calorie drink is more likely to lead to weight gain and diabetes than a less-sweet drink with more calories.

Two studies showed that people who take one diet drink a day are three times more likely than non-diet soda drinkers to suffer a stroke (Stroke, April 20, 2017) and are three time more likely than non-diet drinkers to become demented, with poorer memory, smaller brains and markers of accelerated brain aging (Alzheimer’s & Dementia. published online March 5, 2017).

A review of 30 studies followed for up to 10 years showed that no-calorie or very low-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and stevioside are associated with weight gain, increased waist circumference and higher incidence of obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart attacks (Canadian Medical Association Journal. Jul 17, 2017). The authors state, “Evidence . . . does not clearly support the intended benefits of nonnutritive sweeteners for weight management, and observational data suggest that routine intake of non-nutritive sweeteners may be associated with increased BMI (weight gain) and cardiometabolic (heart attack) risk.” An earlier review of the world’s scientific literature showed in animal studies that artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain, brain tumors, bladder cancer and other health hazards (J Pharmacol Pharmacother, Oct-Dec, 2011.

Sugared Drinks Are Even Worse
One can of sugar-sweetened soda contains 25 to 50 grams of sugar, the recommended upper limit for sugar for an entire day. Many research papers have associated sugared drinks with:
• weight gain
• increased risk for diabetes
• Alzheimer’s disease in rats
• high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attacks, and strokes

Dr. Mirkin’s Recommendations
I believe that regular consumption of either sugar-sweetened or artificially-sweetened drinks will be harmful to your health. The safest drink appears to be water. Unsweetened coffee and tea also appear to be safe.

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One comment

  1. Firstly, I fully agree with the final recommendations in the last paragraph…water, coffee, tea all appear to be preferable, safe choices. Yes.

    But just to play devils advocate regarding artificial sweeteners (AS)…All the studies cited in this article “link” AS to human health problems. “Link” might as well be “hint”. Once there are enough hints that AS are problematic, you’d think the scientific community would do some randomized controlled trials. You know, give some people regular sugar, give some people AS for a few months/years, then follow them and measure the changes. Then we’d have some really strong evidence that AS actually causes something bad.

    Interestingly, one of the studies cited above (Canadian Medical Association Journal. Jul 17, 2017) did something awesome… They found SEVEN randomized controlled trials! And after analyzing this high quality evidence, found…. nothing bad! Here’s the quote from the researchers. “In the included RCTs, nonnutritive sweeteners had no significant effect on BMI. Data from RCTs showed no consistent effects of nonnutritive sweeteners on other measures of body composition and reported no further secondary outcomes.”

    So basically, when artificial sweeteners are put up to some of the highest standards of evidence, they pass. This is likely why AS are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by organizations including:
    -The World Health Organization
    -The Scientific Committee on Food of the European Commission
    -The Joint Expert Committee of Food Additions of the United Nations Food and Ag Organization
    -U.S. FDA

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