Artificial sweeteners increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, research suggests.
A wide-ranging review has found that long term use of the sweeteners – including aspartame, sucralose and stevia – may have negative effects on our metabolism and appetite, as well as our gut bacteria.
And contrary to expectation based on the belief cutting out sugar would prevent weight gain, evidence that taking artificial sweeteners reduces weight was mixed.
Researchers at the University of Manitoba's George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation reviewed 37 studies that followed over 400,000 people for an average of 10 years.
The researchers said there was no consistent weight loss seen in people who took artificial sweeteners.
A wide-ranging review has found that long term use of the sweeteners may have negative effects on our metabolism and appetite, as well as our gut bacteria
Dr Ryan Zarychanski, Assistant Professor, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba said: 'Despite the fact that millions of individuals routinely consume artificial sweeteners, relatively few patients have been included in clinical trials of these products.
'We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management.'
'Caution is warranted'
His colleague and lead author Dr Meghan Azad added: 'Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterized.'
'Given the widespread and increasing use of artificial sweeteners, and the current epidemic of obesity and related diseases, more research is needed to determine the long-term risks and benefits of these products.'
It has been suggested that the use of artificial sweeteners may have a stimulating effect on appetite and, therefore, may play a role in weight gain and obesity.
One problems with some of the artificial