Low calorie sweeteners are supposed to help people lose weight, but they are actually contributing to type 2 diabetes and weight gain, a review of different studies reveals.
Low calorie sweeteners are consumed as a substitute to simple sugars including sucrose, glucose and fructose or fruit sugar.
The artificial sweeteners market is growing fast and is expected to reach $2.2 billion in 2020.
Despite the marketing that artificial sweeteners provides fewer calories and so lead to weight loss, consumers are more likely to gain weight.
According to Professor Peter Clifton, the lead author of this study, in the past 20 years, consumption of low calorie sweeteners has increased by 200 percent among children and 54 percent among adults.
However, recent studies show that low calorie sweeteners can have several harmful effects on the human body.
For example, a study suggests that artificial sweeteners have an appetite-stimulating effect on the brain, causing people to eat more.
Another study over seven years on 5,158 American adults found that people who had a high intake of artificial sweeteners put on more weight compared to nonusers.
Professor Clifton said:
“Consumers of artificial sweeteners do not reduce their overall intake of sugar.
They use both sugar and low-calorie sweeteners and may psychologically feel they can indulge in their favourite foods.
Artificial sweeteners also change the gut bacteria which may lead to weight gain and risk of type 2 diabetes.”
Although it is not clear why, artificially sweetened beverages have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, and death.
Professor Clifton and his team reviewed 13 studies in which they suggest an association between artificially sweetened beverages and the risk of type 2 diabetes.
One study found that changing from artificially sweetened beverages to natural fruit juice would reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 7 percent.
Professor Clifton concluded:
“A better option than low-calorie sweeteners is to stick to a healthy diet, which includes plenty of whole grains, dairy, seafood, legumes, vegetables and fruits and plain water.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports (Kim et al., 2019).