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Artificial sweeteners in food and drink may not be healthy for you

A new study from a Purdue researcher indicates food and drinks that use artificial sweeteners may not be as good for you as you think.

Psychological Sciences Professor Susie Swithers reviewed and evaluated the most recent research on whether consuming high-intensity sweeteners may result in over-eating, weight gain or other health problems.

“And these data demonstrate that people who drink diet sodas have significantly greater risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes compared to people who don’t, so it really is a public health issue, not simply an issue of weight or BMI (Body Mass Index).”

She says the MESA study found people who regularly drank diet sodas were 38% more likely to develop diabetes compared to non-diet soda drinkers.

Swithers says frequent consumption of high-intensity sweeteners may confuse the body’s responses.

“If our brain can’t tell the difference between sugar and an artificial sweetener, then we’re not going to be able to figure out whether or not what we’re eating or drinking has calories.”

She says that can lead to overeating and a failure to release hormones necessary to regulate blood sugar and to digest and metabolize food.

Swithers also says people drinking a zero-calorie soda may over-eat, because they use that to justify eating food high in calories.

“They think that because they’re drinking a diet soda that it’s healthy and they therefore overindulge in other non-healthy products.”

Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, and is published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Swithers says more research is needed on the role artificial sweeteners play in healthy eating.

In response to the research Swithers did, the American Beverage Association issued the following statement:

“This is an opinion piece not a scientific study. Low-calorie sweeteners are some of the most studied and reviewed ingredients in the food supply today. They are safe and an effective tool in weight loss and weight management, according to decades of scientific research and regulatory agencies around the globe.”