Artificial Sweeteners Ain’t All They’re Cracked up to Be

Artificial sweeteners may be associated with long-term weight gain and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, according to this study.

Sweet N’ Low, Splenda, Truvia, Equal: these are names with which we’re all very familiar. They’re in every restaurant (and most households) and have been marketed for decades as the better choice to replace sugar. But do you have any idea what they’re doing to your body?

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in mid-2017 details some pretty scary problems resulting from eating artificial sweeteners. Researchers from the Manitoba’s George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation delved into the results of 37 studies conducted on more than 400,000 people over the course of 10 years, on average. As they went over the research, they found some terrifying patterns emerging:

  • Artificial sweeteners did not encourage weight loss, as previously believed (and marketed). In fact, consumption of artificial sweeteners led to a higher risk of obesity and weight gain.
  • Observational studies discovered a link between consumption of these non-nutritive, artificial sweeteners and diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and a number of other health issues.

These sweeteners were originally conceived as being a safe alternative to high-glycemic sugar, but they have become one of the most popular alternatives for people trying to reduce calorie consumption while still eating sugar-rich and sweet foods. However, as this study, and many other similar studies, indicate, artificial sweeteners can be dangerous for your health.

“Despite the fact that millions of individuals routinely consume artificial sweeteners, relatively few patients have been included in clinical trials of these products,” said author Dr. Ryan Zarychanski, Assistant Professor, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. “We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management.”

“Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterized,” said lead author Dr. Meghan Azad, Assistant Professor, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. Her team at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba is undertaking a new study to understand how artificial sweetener consumption by pregnant women may influence weight gain, metabolism and gut bacteria in their infants.

“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,” said Azad.


1. Meghan B. Azad, Ahmed M. Abou-Setta, Bhupendrasinh F. Chauhan, Rasheda Rabbani, Justin Lys, Leslie Copstein, Amrinder Mann, Maya M. Jeyaraman, Ashleigh E. Reid, Michelle Fiander, Dylan S. MacKay, Jon McGavock, Brandy Wicklow, Ryan Zarychanski. “Nonnutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies.” Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2017; 189 (28): E929.