Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and stevioside are not associated with reduced BMI and may pose some risks, suggests a meta-analysis in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Researchers identified 37 studies that looked at the effects of artificial sweeteners in 400,000 people over age 12.
In randomized trials with a median 6 months’ follow-up, the primary outcome, BMI, was not associated with intake of artificial sweeteners. Three long-term cohort studies suggested a modest increase in BMI over time with increased artificial sweetener consumption. For secondary outcomes like weight, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes, the observational studies again found higher risk with increased intake.
Dr. Harlan Krumholz, editor-in-chief of NEJM Journal Watch Cardiology, comments: “This study raises the concerning possibility that not only have these sweeteners not helped people manage their weight, but may have actually jeopardized their cardiometabolic health. The evidence base is far too weak to make definitive conclusions, but the urgent need for more information about these common ingredients is obvious.”