Diet Soda Linked to Weight Gain, Not Weight Loss

Long-term use of artificial sweeteners is linked to increased waistline size and modest gains in weight.

Aug. 8, 2017
By Mary West

Recent News

Millions of peo­ple drink diet sodas because of the belief that they help with weight loss. A new study has shown this con­vic­tion is a myth: the bev­er­ages actu­ally pro­mote weight gain. In addi­tion, they are also linked to heart dis­ease, high blood pres­sure and dia­betes.

We found that data from clin­i­cal tri­als do not clearly sup­port the intended ben­e­fits of arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers for weight man­age­ment.- Ryan Zarychanski, University of Manitoba

In the first few decades after arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers debuted on the mar­ket, they were viewed as an easy method of reduc­ing daily calo­rie intake. Products con­tain­ing sucralose, aspar­tame, and sac­cha­rin, sold under the brand names of Splenda, Equal and Sweet N Low, were wildly pop­u­lar. Diet sodas and desserts labeled sugar-free” were eagerly snatched up at super­mar­kets because they were con­sid­ered by many as a guilt-free way to indulge a sweet tooth.

While prod­ucts con­tain­ing arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers con­tinue to be widely used, in recent years, as research has indi­cated they may have adverse health effects, Americans are increas­ingly wor­ried about their safety. A new review of stud­ies pub­lished in the Canadian Medical Association Journal gives more cause for con­cern. It exam­ined the chem­i­cals’ long-term effects on health, and the results weren’t pretty.

Scientists at the University of Manitoba’s George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation looked at 37 stud­ies that fol­lowed 406,000 users of arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers for an aver­age of 10 years. Seven of the stud­ies were ran­dom­ized clin­i­cal tri­als, the gold stan­dard in research, which included 1,007 peo­ple who were fol­lowed for approx­i­mately six months.

Analysis of the data failed to prove either a short-term or a long-term ben­e­fit. The six-month tri­als didn’t show that arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers had a con­sis­tent weight loss effect. Moreover, the 10-year obser­va­tion stud­ies revealed links to mod­est gains in weight and body mass index, as well as increased waist­line size, a prob­lem asso­ci­ated with a height­ened risk of sev­eral chronic dis­eases. The longer stud­ies also showed an omi­nous con­nec­tion to some­what higher like­li­hoods of obe­sity, heart dis­ease, dia­betes and other health prob­lems.


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 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 Meghan Azad, assis­tant pro­fes­sor, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. 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.”

In an inter­view with Olive Oil Times, Carolyn Dean, med­ical doc­tor and natur­opath, didn’t mince words in giv­ing her opin­ion about the research. She is a Medical Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Magnesium Association.

This study, which exposes the false claims of syn­thetic sweet­en­ers, should have the indus­try quak­ing in its boots. It was extremely com­pre­hen­sive, includ­ing 11,774 cita­tions. The results were the oppo­site of what the syn­thetic sweet­ener indus­try adver­tises. Every prac­ti­tioner who rec­om­mends syn­thetic sweet­en­ers should be informed that they are harm­ing their patients.

We have to go back to a sim­ple dietary restric­tion of sug­ars to achieve health rather than sub­sti­tut­ing syn­thetic sweet­en­ers. These chem­i­cals may be harm­ful in them­selves and also give peo­ple a false sense that using them per­mits cheat­ing’ with high caloric treats.”

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