Globe and Mail, and more: Sugar substitutes associated with weight gain and health problems, study says
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. It’s sugar-free and has no calories. About as harmless as water, right?
Not so, says a new study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. 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 study involved a systematic review and meta-analysis of 37 studies dating back to the early 1980s and involving more than 400,000 participants.
Considering the potential risks, lead author Meghan Azad says it’s not a bad idea to avoid products containing nonnutritive sweeteners – including artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose and stevioside, a natural sweetener derived from stevia plants – until researchers know more about their long-term effects. However, other experts say there’s not enough evidence to recommend abstaining from these sugar substitutes, noting they’re approved by Health Canada.
“I think a lot of people consuming them kind of assume they’re harmless because they contain zero calories. But what the evidence is suggesting is maybe there’s more to the story than that,” said Dr. Azad, an assistant professor of pediatrics and child health at the University of Manitoba.