We’ve been hearing, for decades, that Sugar is bad for us. I think we all agree that too much Sugar is a ticket to obesity and other health risks. But, now, researchers say that sugary beverage consumption – even in diets which don’t cause weight gain – increases the risk of cardio-metabolic diseases…
An international team of 22 researchers from 11 different institutions around the world has found sugar-sweetened beverages play a unique role in chronic health problems, and the disease risk increases even when the beverages are consumed within diets that do not result in weight gain.
Researchers asked: Are all calories equal with regards to effects on cardiometabolic disease and obesity? The paper provides an extensive review of the current science on diets that can lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
What they found…
The three key findings of the report, published recently in the learned journal Obesity Reviews, were as follows.
- Consuming sugar-sweetened beverages increases cardiometabolic disease risk when compared to equal amounts of starch
- A diet rich in polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in some vegetable oils, seeds and nuts can lower disease risk
- The sugar substitute Aspartame does not cause weight gain in adults
Wait… Aspartame is not bad?
The study report’s Lead Author, Dr. Kimber Stanhope, says the authors agreed that aspartame does not promote weight gain in adults. Stanhope also recognised that this might come as a surprise to most people:
“If you go on the internet and look up aspartame, the layperson would be convinced that aspartame is going to make them fat, but it’s not. The long and short of it is that no human studies on noncaloric sweeteners show weight gain.”
Expert opinion is divided…
But that’s not to say some artificial sweeteners don’t have other detrimental effects.
A review of the literature on artificial sweeteners in 2013 by Dr. S.E Swithers and Dr. N.A. Patterson, published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, concluded that:
“…when it comes to artificially-sweetened beverages, as few as one of these drinks per day may be enough to significantly increase the risk for a number of health problems.”
They cited weight gain, Metabolic Syndrome, Type 2 Diabetes and Hypertension / Cardiovascular disease.
The Swithers / Patterson study, however, did not differentiate between Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners such as Saccharin, Sucralose and Stevia.
So, who do you believe?
One thing all the studies on sweeteners agree on is, Sugar is bad for you. But whose opinion do you believe on artificial sweeteners?
I’m prone to believe the later, Stanhope report is more accurate, at least on the specific question of Aspartame’s effect on weight gain. But I don’t discount, entirely, the findings of the Swithers / Patterson report, which was also based on a review of the literature.
It’s all very confusing, really.
What I’d really like to see is a mammoth study of all the current literature, examining the rationales behind the studies whose findings are considered, culminating in one, final expert opinion on the safety and effects of artificial sweeteners.
Something tells me, such a defining finding won’t be produced soon.
~ Maggie J.