When we frequently ingest certain artificial sweeteners through beverages and foods, it is associated with a greater increase in body fat. More fat is stored in the abdomen and muscles and at the same time the risk of obesity increases in the long term.
A new study involving researchers from the University of Minnesota looked at the effects of habitual, long-term intake of artificial sweeteners or diet drinks on body fat. The results can be found in the International Journal of Obesity.
Nutrition analyzed by over 3,000 participants
At the start of the research, the 3,088 participants were instructed to fill out a validated nutritional history questionnaire, which they did again after seven years and finally after 20 years.
At the beginning of the study, the participants had an average age of 25.2 years and had an average body mass index (BMI) of 24.5 kg/m2. In the study, the experts used computed tomography to determine the volumes of visceral, intermuscular and subcutaneous fat tissue.
The researchers analyzed the association of dietary beverage, aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, artificial sweetener intake and adipose tissue volume and anthropometric data over a 25-year period. In addition, the association between artificial sweeteners and the occurrence of obesity was assessed.
How did the artificial sweeteners work?
The total intake of artificial sweeteners, aspartame, saccharin, and diet drinks was shown to be positively associated with the volume of visceral, intermuscular, and subcutaneous adipose tissue volume. In contrast, no such associations could be observed with the intake of sucralose, the team reports.
In addition, total intake of artificial sweeteners, saccharin, aspartame, and diet drinks was associated with higher BMI, body weight, and waist circumference, and increases in these values over a 25-year period.
The results suggest that intake of aspartame, saccharin and diet sodas increases fat tissue over the long term and increases the risk of obesity – regardless of the quality of other diet or calorie intake, study author Professor Brian Steffen points out in a press release
Artificial sweeteners increase risk of obesity
With the exception of saccharin, at a median medical follow-up of 17.5 years, all artificial sweeteners and diet drinks were associated with a higher risk of obesity, the experts add.
The results of the study therefore raise concerns about replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners. The team recommends considering alternative approaches because long-term consumption of artificial sweeteners can also have potentially negative health consequences. (as)