Artificial Sweeteners No Silver Bullet For Weight Loss

By Amir Khan on July 10, 2012 10:32 AM EDT

Diet Soda
For people trying to lose weight, artificial sweeteners may help in the short term, but are not a long-term solution (Photo: Creative Commons)

For people trying to lose weight, artificial sweeteners may help in the short term, but are not a long-term solution, according to a statement issued by the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.

 The organizations concluded that replacing added sugars with artificial sweeteners could have beneficial effects, but also found that the sweeteners were linked some unwanted effects, making the case for them hazy.

"Smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could help you reduce added sugars in your diet, therefore lowering the number of calories you eat," Christopher Gardner, lead author of the study, published in the journal Circulation, and researcher at Stanford University, told ABC News. "[They] could help you attain and maintain a healthy body weight, and thereby lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes."

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Researchers looked at the sweeteners aspartame, acesulfame-K, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, and stevia and found that people benefited from replacing added sugars with one of those sweeteners.

"For example, soft drinks sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners do not increase blood glucose levels, and thus can provide a sweet option for those with diabetes," Diane Reader of the International Diabetes Center in Minneapolis, Minn., said in a statement.

However, researchers found that many people who switch out sugars for sweeteners compensate for the calorie cuts by indulging in my high-calorie foods. In addition, sweeteners have been linked to unwanted side effects, including obesity, in several studies.

Reader said part of the side effects come from the people who overindulge in artificially sweetened foods, and said people shouldn't consider a food healthy "just because a food product includes a non-nutritive sweetener."

Gardner also stressed that while artificial sweeteners could be part of a healthy diet, you need to make sure you include healthy food in your diet as well.

"Strategies for reducing calories and added sugars also involves choosing foods which have no added sugars or non-nutritive sweeteners - such as vegetables, fruits, high-fiber whole grains, and non- or low-fat dairy," he said.

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