The $2.2 billion artificial sweeteners industry, which seeks to help people lose weight, may be contributing to type 2 diabetes, according to researchers from the University of South Australia.
A recently published review led by Professor Peter Clifton, of the University of South Australia, revealed that people who use low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) are more likely to gain weight, which is the exact opposite of what consumers expect, despite controlled clinical trials showing that artificial sweeteners do lead to weight loss.
According to Clifton, low calorie sweeteners are used in place of sucrose, glucose and fructose, which have an intense sweet flavour without the calories, but recent studies have highlighted potential adverse health effects. He noted that there has been a 200 percent increase in LCS usage among children and a 54 percent increase among adults in the past 20 years.
Clifton explained that a United States study of about 5158 adults over a seven-year period found that those who consumed large quantities of artificial sweeteners gained more weight than non-users.
“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,” he said.
According to other findings by the professor, artificially sweetened beverages (ASB) are also linked with increased risks of death and cardiovascular disease, strokes and dementia among older people, but its clarity is not ascertained.
Clifton cited 13 studies, which investigated the effects of ASB intake on the risk of type 2 diabetes, all of which found either no link or a positive one. One of the studies found that substituting ASB for sugar-sweetened beverages or fruit juices was associated with a five to seven percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
“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,” Clifton said.