Nonnutritive sweeteners such as those used in diet pop were associated with weight gain, a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes and other health problems, according to researchers from the University of Manitoba's George and Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation.
The Calorie Control Council, a trade group for manufacturers of artificial sweeteners including sucralose and aspartame, said the latest study linking weight gain and heart disease with low calorie sweeteners paints with too broad a brush.
The research was conducted by scientists from the University of Manitoba, Canada and reviewed data from 37 studies which analysed more than 400,000 people for an average period of 10 years.
He agrees with Azad's call for more research into the matter.
In order to attribute the observation of higher obesity rates in frequent low calorie sweeteners' consumers to the use of low calorie sweeteners per se, rather than to some other unmeasured confounding factors, meaning to prove causation, a trial of randomised controlled design is required. Publication bias was indicated for studies with diabetes as an outcome.
At her lab, Azad is now studying what happens when people are given artificially sweetened beverages for several weeks. When people consume zero calorie sweeteners they feel like they have earned the ability to "cheat" somewhere else in their diet because they managed to avoid calories elsewhere.
We've all heard the popular theory that if you are using artificial sweeteners instead of sugar you get the benefits of a potential weight loss and sweet taste without the unnecessary calories.
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Admittedly, both reviewed studies do have their strengths and weaknesses.
They concluded that artificial sweeteners had no significant effect on body mass index (BMI) in the randomized control trials. "And we found at least some evidence that they do the opposite".
However, the use of sweetener did not prevent this result, and did not limit the ability to lose weight.
People hoping to lose a few pounds by substituting artificial sweeteners for regular sugar may end up disappointed, suggests a fresh look at past research. And more trials that reflect how people consume sweeteners in a host of foods are needed.
The other school holds that artificial sweeteners might influence the body itself in some as-yet-unknown way, Azad said.
You've been watching your sugar intake lately, so you select a diet soft drink from the office pop machine for a cool, refreshing pick-me-up.
"A lot of the studies we found were observational, meaning they could show a link but they can't prove a cause-and-effect relationship", she said. Miller said when she tried to quit as an adult, she hated real sugar.
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