- New research involving more than 3,000 people found a link between regular consumption of artificial sweeteners and higher levels of fat in the body.
- The study comes after the World Health Organization raised concerns about aspartame, a non-nutritive sweetener, being a possible carcinogen.
Non-nutritive sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin, have become common sugar substitutes in a variety of foods and beverages — from diet soda and “light” yogurt to sugar-free cereals and syrups — since the mid-1970s.
Despite their ubiquity, long-term consumption of these artificial sweeteners may have a negative effect on how your body stores fat, according to research in International Journal of Obesity.
Looking at more than 3,000 men and women who have enrolled in studies on coronary artery risk development over the past 25 years, the researchers assessed data on dietary habits as well as three types of fat: visceral, intermuscular, and subcutaneous.
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Of the three, visceral fat, which isn’t visible but is stored in the abdomen and surrounds the organs, has been highlighted the most in previous studies for its role in increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. But that didn’t let the other two off the hook. Too much intermuscular fat is thought to be a predictor of reduced muscle strength and functional mobility, and subcutaneous fat — the kind that sits just under the skin — can be protective to some degree, but too much can also increase health risks.
In a recent study, researchers found that participants who regularly consumed artificial sweeteners had higher levels of all three types of fat, even after taking into account other factors such as the quantity and quality of food.
“The takeaway here is that it’s important to find alternatives to artificial sweeteners in food and beverages, especially since these added sweeteners can have negative health consequences,” said lead researcher Lyn Steffen, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Public Health. . at the University of Minnesota.
He says Runner’s World that further research is needed to better understand the link between consumption of artificial sweeteners and increased body fat, but the findings raise concerns about recommendations from the American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association that promote replacing added sugars with these sweeteners.
The study’s findings are in addition to important findings released in mid-July by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which suggested that aspartame is a probable carcinogen.
However, another WHO group, the Committee of Experts on Food Additives, argues that the current daily amount is still safe for consumption. The daily threshold is 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight for adults. For someone who weighs about 150 pounds, that’s the equivalent of nearly 14 cans of Diet Coke.
The Food and Drug Administration, which has set daily limits slightly higher than 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, noted in a statement that it disagreed with the WHO cancer group’s conclusions.
“Aspartame is one of the most studied food additives in the human food supply,” writes the FDA. “FDA scientists have no safety concerns when aspartame is used under approved conditions. The sweetener is approved in many countries.
As the debate swirls about the effects of these sweeteners, with more research likely in the near future, what individuals can do is assess how these sweeteners may affect them, suggests dietitian Tamara Duker Freuman, RD, author of the book. Flatulence Whisper. Even if deemed safe by the FDA, these sweeteners may not be suitable for everyone in terms of digestion and tolerance.
“There are many artificial and natural sweeteners, including stevia, aspartame, sucralose, xylitol, erythritol, and others,” says Freuman. Runner’s World. “For some people, these sweeteners tend to cause gastrointestinal discomfort such as gas or an upset stomach, so pay attention to how you feel if you add more of these sweeteners to your diet.
Also, as with most foods and especially processed foods, it is always best to eat in moderation, which means limiting your intake as much as possible.
Elizabeth Millard is a freelance writer focused on health, wellness, wellness and food.
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