Meta analysis finds artificial sweeteners may lead to weight gain | Men's Health Magazine Australia

This Common Weight-Loss Food Might Actually Be Making You Fat

The “diet” choice might not actually help your diet goals at all: artificial, zero-calorie sweeteners may not help you lose weight—and they may actually contribute to packing on the pounds, according to a new meta-analysis published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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The researchers crunched the numbers from 37 studies involving over 406,000 participants—seven were randomised control trials, the “gold standard” of research where one group received the treatment and the other a placebo, and 30 were cohort studies, where people are followed for a set amount of time to gauge their risk of disease.

They concluded that artificial sweeteners had no significant effect on body mass index (BMI) in the randomised control trials. In the observational studies, they determined that consuming artificial sweeteners actually led to slight increases in BMI, weight, and waist circumference. It was also linked to higher levels of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart events and metabolic syndrome. 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the US says that artificial sweeteners are safe, and can be used to regulate calorie intake to help manage weight, the study says. But this research—as well as previous experiments—questions that advice. It’s possible that the sweeteners can affect the way your body metabolises sugar, mess with the good bacteria in your gut and can even influence your appetite.

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One reason? Artificial sweeteners taste much sweeter than regular sugar—up to 1,000 times as much, in fact. When you take in that sweet taste, your body thinks high-energy food is to follow, Dr Yanina Pepino, a researcher at the Washington University School of Medicine explains. So it triggers a hormonal response to prepare for it.

When you don’t get that calorie surge, your body may feel less satisfied—triggering our appetites and possibly prompting us to search for more substantial food. 

Still, there are a lot of uncertainties about artificial sweeteners and weight gain, and some studies continue to show conflicting results with it. So while more research does need to be done, it doesn’t hurt to work on reducing the added stuff from your diet—whether zero-calorie artificial sweeteners or regular sugar.

Start by gradually reducing the amount of sweetener you use to give your taste buds time to adjust, says Kelley Bradshaw, a dietitian in the Center for Endocrinology, Nutrition and Weight Management at Boston Medical Center. The process could take anywhere from a few months to a year.

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