Sugar free foods sweetened artificially aren’t any more healthy than those with regular sugar.
Added sugars have been linked to serious health problems for quite some time, causing weight gain, heart disease, high cholesterol, and even Alzheimer’s disease, among many other life-threatening illnesses. The wide variety of issues tied to sugar has prompted many manufacturers of common foods and beverages to switch to artificial sweeteners. This move has also been led by the marketing of sugar free fad diets and the need for diabetic options. However, the switch really isn’t all that better health-wise.
In fact, past experimental research suggests that artificial sweeteners play a role in cardiovascular disease, but this data from human studies has been few, and past observational studies have only focused on drinks as a proxy. Now, a large-scale prospective cohort study published in the journal Nutrients has been released that seems to back up this claim.
Researchers concluded that artificial sweeteners “should not be regarded as a healthy and safe substitute to sugar” due to their association with an elevated risk of heart disease. In keeping with the existing position of various federal agencies, the results suggest that these food additives, ingested daily by millions of people and present in hundreds of meals and drinks, should not be regarded as a a safe substitute. Any ads marketing them as such are actually being deceptive.
The team looked at participants’ use of sugar from all sources, including beverages, tabletop sweeteners, and dairy products, and compared these to their risk of developing cardiovascular complications. Dietary records were used to measure sweetener use. Diet diaries were completed three times at six-month intervals, twice on weekdays and once on a weekend day, and participants recorded everything they ate for 24 hours. In total, they used artificial sweeteners at a rate of about 37%.
Analyzing this data, it was determined that artificial sweeteners lead to as much as a “9 percent greater chance of developing cardiovascular disease.”“ The sweeteners are also associated with “an 18% increased risk of cerebrovascular disease”
Aspartame, in particular, was associated with “an elevated risk of cerebrovascular events of 17%, while acesulfame potassium and sucralose have been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease,” the team concluded.
Those who consumed high levels of these sweeteners were much more likely to be younger and to have unhealthy lifestyle habits, including a sedentary disposition and smoking cigarettes. They were also much more likely to have a poor diet, overall, including the consumption of “more sodium, red and processed meat and dairy products” in addition to sugar-free beverages.
It was noted that, “Artificial sweeteners have been linked to an increase in “sugar cravings and dependence, impaired caloric compensation resulting in appetite stimulation, increased consumption, weight gain, and glucose intolerance.”
When it comes to opting for a full sugar or an artificially sweetened product, there really isn’t any health benefit derived from choosing one over the other. The best thing to do is to avoid overly sweet products altogether, to stick with natural and organic options, and to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices in order to maintain optimal heart health.