What Are Artificial Sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners, also known as non-nutritive sweeteners, are sugar substitutes with little to no calories and much stronger sweetness compared to simple sugar.1 Artificial sweeteners can often be found in baked goods, soft drinks, candies, canned foods, and other foods and beverages often labeled as “diet” or “sugar-free”.2
There are currently 6 types of artificial sweeteners approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in food products:
- Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K)
Are There Benefits to Artificial Sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners have been an interest to the public as they promise the sweetness of sugar without its calories.3 They can be used to enhance both taste and texture. Consumers found artificial sweeteners to potentially be helpful in reducing caloric intake, losing weight, and reducing sugar consumption.4 However, more recent research is showing that the previously believed benefits of artificial sweeteners may not be true.
Are Artificial Sweeteners Good for Metabolic Health?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a new guideline recommending against the use of artificial sweeteners to control body weight or to reduce risk of diseases.5 This review comes after examining evidence showing that artificial sweeteners are not beneficial in losing weight but that its long-term consumption may actually increase body mass index as well as the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and heart disease.
Recent meta-analyses are finding that consumption of artificially sweetened beverages is also linked to increased risk of metabolic syndrome.6,7 Metabolic syndrome is characterized by high blood pressure, high blood glucose levels, abdominal obesity, high triglyceride levels, and low high-density-lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels and is known to be associated with T2DM and other health problems.8,9
Are Artificial Sweeteners Good for Heart Health?
Consistent with WHO’s recommendation, recent studies show that artificial sweeteners may not be good for heart health.1,10 A 2022 research study concluded that consuming more artificial sweeteners is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).11 Certain types of artificial sweeteners were associated with cerebrovascular disease (ie, conditions that affect blood flow to the brain) and coronary heart disease (ie, conditions that affect blood flow to the heart). Although the mechanisms are still being studied, artificial sweeteners may be associated with weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and vascular dysfunction, which may explain the relationship between artificial sweeteners and heart disease.
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