Research: No evidence artificial sweeteners provide benefits

Research DefinitionResearch Definition

The evidence is lacking to back the use of artificial sweeteners.

Blood sugar measurement

Blood sugar measurement

Non-sugar sweeteners or artificial sweeteners have been around for hundreds of years.  Medical providers have recommended them to patients for decades to help reduce patient risks for obesity and Diabetes.  It just makes sense that they would work to decrease the risk of both.  The sweeteners have nearly zero calories and are replacing sugar which is what we measure when we suspect that you have Diabetes.   The problem that there is limited to no research to back up this usage of artificial sweeteners to lower this risk.  

New research from the British Medical Journal seems to indicate that there is no statistical relevant benefit of the use of artificial sweeteners for health outcomes[1].  The researchers assessed the association between the intake of artificial sweeteners and important health outcomes in generally healthy or overweight adults and children to help

Closeup of artificial sweetener tablets

Closeup of artificial sweetener tablets

the World Health Organization create guidelines on the use of these substances.  They examined 56 studies conducted among generally healthy people, some of whom were overweight or obese.  The study was a systematic review of data pulled from other studies from relevant publications that looked at outcomes such as body weight or body mass index, glycemic control, oral health, eating behavior, preference for sweet taste, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease.

The data search resulted in over 13,000 unique records from 56 individual studies.  In adults, very few studies show a small beneficial effect of artificial sweeteners on body mass index and fasting blood glucose.  In fact, lower intake of artificial sweeteners was associated with lower weight gain.  For all other outcomes, no differences were detected between the use and non-use.  There was no evidence found of any effect of artificial sweeteners on overweight or obese adults or children. 

The bottom line:  Artificial sweeteners convey no weight-loss or health benefit when compared to sugar or placebo.  I am not saying you should stop consuming it.  There is definitely no proven harm (nor excluded), and it still might be proven to help with weight loss and diabetes, but the evidence is not there at this time.  Further investigations are needed to clarify the benefits and harms of artificial sweetener consumption. 

References

[1]
I. Toews, S. Lohner, D. Küllenberg de Gaudry, H. Sommer, and J. J. Meerpohl, “Association between intake of non-sugar sweeteners and health outcomes: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials and observational studies,” BMJ, p. k4718, Jan. 2019 [Online]. Available: 10.1136/bmj.k4718″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k4718
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About the Author

ChuckH
I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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