- A new study has found a link between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and heart disease and stroke.
- Artificial sweeteners were particularly associated with the risk of cerebrovascular diseases, such as stroke-related events, compared to coronary heart disease.
- Despite this new information, doctors do not recommend returning to added sugar in drinks or foods as an alternative to artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners could do you more harm than good, especially when it comes to your heart health.
A new study published in The BMJ studied the relationship between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and the risk of heart disease. The research, led by experts from Sorbonne Paris Nord University, looked at sweetener intake from all food sources, including beverages, table-top sweeteners and dairy products, and compared it to the risk of participants’ coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease (a group of conditions that affect blood flow to the brain).
The researchers also looked at artificial sweeteners at the molecular level, considering aspartame, acesulfame potassium and sucralose.
It’s no secret that many people use artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes as a calorie-free or low-calorie alternative to sugar. They are found in thousands of products around the world, especially ultra-processed foods such as artificially sweetened drinks (like diet sodas), some snacks, and low-calorie convenience foods.
The researchers looked at data from 103,388 French participants whose average age was 42 and 80% were female. Dietary intake and consumption of artificial sweeteners were assessed by repeated self-reported 24-hour food recordings.
The study found that total consumption of artificial sweeteners was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Artificial sweeteners were particularly associated with the risk of cerebrovascular disease, compared to coronary heart disease.
Consumption of aspartame, a specific type of artificial sweetener, was associated with an increased risk of cerebrovascular events, such as stroke. On the other hand, acesulfame potassium and sucralose, two different types of artificial sweeteners, have been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
The researchers concluded that there is a potential direct association between the consumption of a high amount of artificial sweeteners (specifically aspartame, acesulfame potassium and sucralose) and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Although this study has many strengths, some limitations should be considered. It is important to remember that no causal relationship can be established with the results of an observational study, so we can only state with certainty that there is a strong association and a potential direct relationship between higher consumption artificial sweeteners and a higher risk of heart disease. Moreover, given that the research was conducted among a predominantly female population with a higher level of education, these data are probably not generalizable to the entire French population, as well as to the world population. Finally, since participant data was self-reported, the information collected may not be truly representative of the individuals’ overall health profile.
It is also important to note that if any of the participants had a history of obesity or other health conditions that would have predisposed them to a higher risk of heart disease, the increased risk found in this study may not be only attributed to a higher artificial sweetener. contribute, explain Karen Aspri, MDco-chair of the American College of Cardiology Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Section and Nutrition and Lifestyle Task Force.
The research team added that further studies need to be conducted to confirm these findings. In the meantime, international health agencies, such as the European Food Safety Authority and the World Health Organization, should consider the key insights provided by this study and reevaluate their view of artificial sweeteners in various products. food.
Several studies have linked the consumption of artificial sweeteners or artificially sweetened beverages to weight gain, high blood pressure, and inflammation in the past. But the results remain mixed on the role of artificial sweeteners in the cause of various diseases, including heart disease.
The bottom line
The damage caused by these artificially sweetened drinks and foods is relatively harmless to your health. However, drinking less of these beverages as well as processed foods is better for your overall health, says Dr. Aspry.
And for those of us with a sweet tooth, try to get your sweetness rating from naturally sweet foods, like fruit, when you can. Sugary drinks can be difficult to consume in a day, but limit your intake where you can and your heart will thank you!
Magdalene, Preventionassociate editor of , has a history with health writing from her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD and her personal research at university. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience — and she helps strategize for success across Preventionsocial media platforms.
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