Fewer calories equates to fewer pounds. Artificial sweeteners were given the blessing of both the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association. But an international group of researchers has learned that low-calorie sweeteners may not live up to their promises over time because “…it’s not just about calories. The study found that people who drank artificial sweeteners routinely had increased body mass index and risked developing cardiovascular disease.
Close to half of adults and a quarter of children continue to consume artificial sweeteners every day. More evidence from better quality studies is needed to know for sure the cause and effect, but there does seem to be a question when it comes to daily consumption of these drinks. However, there were consistencies across the studies they evaluated: “Non-nutritional sweeteners (are) significantly associated with modest long-term increases” in body weight, BMI, and waist circumference. Belly fat, or visceral fat, has been linked to a greater chance of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance. High waist circumference is also one component of metabolic syndrome, a constellation of health risk factors that includes high triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood glucose.
However, artificial sweeteners are still a good tool for diabetics reducing their carbohydrates and manage their blood-glucose levels. But moderation is important until more long-term studies are done, particularly on people with diabetes. A link between these sweeteners and weight gain seems to exist, but the reason is unknown. Postulated reasons include:
- The body tastes sweetness and thinks its eating sugar processes metabolically as though it is sugar.
- There’s an unknown biological switch triggered by the chemicals in artificial sweeteners.
- Consuming a steady intake of artificially sweet foods make people more likely to choose high calorie sweets the rest of the time.
- It’s a function of the gut where diet drinks cold affect the makeup of the small organisms in the digestive tract, which can affect digestion and overall health.
- People who are gaining weight for other reasons seek out more artificially sweetened foods.
For now, it is recommended by researchers that the best advice is for consumers to not automatically assume sweetened foods are healthier alternatives.
Will you continue, or let your children continue drinking and eating artificially sweetened food?