Artificial sweeteners are often the go-to choice for people wishing to lose weight, but new research suggests they may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the study, the results of which are published in the BMJ, artificial sweeteners are associated with a 9 percent higher risk of any type of cardiovascular disease event and an 18 percent increased chance of stroke. “Our results indicate that these food additives, consumed daily by millions of people and present in thousands of foods and beverages, should not be considered a healthy and safe alternative to sugar,” the study authors wrote in The BMJ. Moreover, different sweeteners carried different risk. For example, aspartame, sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal, was tied to a 17 percent increased risk of stroke. Acesulfame potassium, sold under the brand names Sweet One and Sunett, was linked to a 40 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease. For the study, more than 100,000 adults (mostly female) were followed for around a decade, making it the largest to date to investigate cardiovascular health problems associated with sugar substitutes. At the start of the study, none of the participants had a history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes — and none of them were diagnosed with these conditions during the first two years of follow-up. *Image by designfoto from Pixabay
Drinking coffee – even with sugar in it – is linked to a longer lifespan, new research has revealed. According to the study by researchers at the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, people who drink coffee moderately are more likely to live longer than those who drink less or more. For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the UK Biobank, a database of around half a million people who have consented to having their medical and genetic information made available to researchers. The study team found that people who drank between 1.5 and 3.5 cups of coffee per day were less likely to die (due to any cause) during a 7-year follow up period. Perhaps more surprising is the finding that people who drink sweetened coffee appear to benefit the most. Indeed, these individuals were as much as 31% less likely to die than those who drink less than 1.5 cups and more than 3.5 cups per day. However, lead researcher Dr. Dan Liu said: “The results for those who used artificial sweeteners were less clear.” “Based on the findings, we can tell people that there is no need for most coffee drinkers to eliminate the beverage from their diet, but to be cautious about higher-calorie specialty coffees,” Liu concluded. In other words, be conscious of how much added sugar sometimes goes into popular coffee shop chain beverages. *Image courtesy of Soner Köse from Pixabay
A Canadian study has questioned how a pregnant mother's consumption of beverages containing sweeteners might affect the weight of their unborn child. According to the authors, the risk of a mother's unborn child being overweight could be increased among those mothers who consume sweeteners on a daily basis. Dr. Meghan Azad, of the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada), and her staff questioned more than 3,000 women to learn about their eating habits during pregnancy. In addition, the body mass index (BMI) of their children was also measured at the age of one. The researchers made two main findings: 1. 5.1% of the young children at the age of one were already overweight. 2. Mothers who consumed one or more artificially sweetened drinks each day during their pregnancies doubled the risk of their unborn children being overweight by the time they were one. In conclusion, the researchers admit that their work includes some limitations such as the mothers reporting their eating habits via questionnaire. They point out, however, that "to their knowledge, this is the first study to investigate the potential effect of consuming artificial sweeteners during pregnancy and infant weight gain." In January 2015, the National Agency for Food Safety (ANSES) was less convinced. According to them, "the available data do not make it possible to identify any benefit or conclude on the risk associated with the consumption of intense sweeteners during pregnancy, whether it is maternal health, obstetric parameters, or health of the newborn."
Tests in fruit flies and mice have shown that artificial sweeteners activate hunger pathways, which boost appetite and send the body into "feed me" mode. Reporting their findings in the journal Cell Metabolism, the Australian researchers said that more work is needed to see if the same is true in humans, and whether the billions of people who consume sugar substitutes experience similar reactions. For the study, the researchers looked at how the brain signals of the insects and rodents changed as what they were fed was restricted. Some fruit flies and mice were given a diet containing natural sugars, while others ate the same, but with added low-calorie artificial sweeteners. The researchers found that the brains of the subjects consuming the sugar substitutes compensated whenever sweetness and energy was out of balance by sending signals in a bid to boost calorie consumption. The result was that when given the chance, the insects and rodents ate more. Researcher Professor Greg Neely, from the University of Sydney, said: "When we investigated why animals were eating more even though they had enough calories, we found that chronic consumption of this artificial sweetener actually increases the sweet intensity of real nutritive sugar, and this then increases the animal's overall motivation to eat more food." However, UK nutritionists have said that the same is not necessarily true in humans and that low-calorie sweetened foods are better for people's teeth than sugar and can help keep weight off. The researchers have also agreed that more investigations are needed to see whether similar effects are seen in humans.