Today, The BMJ published the results of major research on French adults that reveals a probable link between higher usage of artificial sweeteners and an increased risk of cardiovascular illness, including heart attack and stroke.

Conclusions Consistent with the current view of various health agencies, the findings suggest that these food additives, consumed daily by millions of people and found in hundreds of foods and drinks, should not be regarded as a healthy and safe substitute for sugar.

Artificial sweeteners are frequently employed as calorie-free or low-calorie substitutes for sugar. They are used in thousands of products around the world, especially ultra-processed foods like artificially sweetened drinks, some snacks, and low-calorie ready meals. The global market for them is worth $7,200 million.

Consuming artificial sweeteners or artificially sweetened beverages (ASB) has been linked in numerous studies to weight gain, high blood pressure, and inflammation, but the evidence on how artificial sweeteners contribute to the development of various diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, is still conflicting. Also, many observational studies have used ASB consumption as a stand-in for CVD risk, but none of these studies have measured the amount of artificial sweeteners in the overall diet.

Researchers from the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) and their colleagues looked at data from 103,388 people who took part in the web-based NutriNet-Santé study, which started in France in 2009 to study the links between nutrition and health. The average age of these people was 42, and 80% of them were women.

Repeated 24-hour food records were used to analyze dietary intakes and artificial sweetener consumption, and a variety of sociodemographic, lifestyle, and other characteristics that could have an impact on health were taken into consideration.

The study looked at all sources of artificial sweeteners (drinks, tabletop sweeteners, dairy products, etc.) and all types (aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose).

37% of the people who took part in the study used artificial sweeteners. On average, they took in 42.46 mg/day, which is about the same as one packet of tabletop sweetener or 100 mL of diet soda.

The average daily intakes for lower and higher consumer groups among participants who drank artificial sweeteners were 7.46 and 77.62 mg, respectively.

Higher users had a tendency to be younger, have a higher body mass index than non-consumers, were more likely to smoke, were less likely to be physically active, and were more likely to follow a weight loss program. Additionally, they consumed less total energy and less alcohol, saturated and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, carbs, fruit, and vegetables while consuming more sodium, red and processed meat, dairy products, and non-sugary beverages. But the researchers considered these variations in their studies.

An average of nine years of follow-up resulted in 1,502 cardiovascular events. They included transient ischemic attack, transient ischemic attack, angina, angioplasty (a procedure to expand blocked or restricted arteries to the heart), and stroke.

The researchers discovered that consuming artificial sweeteners in their entirety was linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (absolute rate 346 per 100,000 person-years in higher consumers and 314 per 100,000 person-years in non-consumers).

Artificial sweeteners had a stronger link to the risk of cerebrovascular illness (absolute rates 195 and 150 per 100,000 person years in higher and non-consumers, respectively).

While acesulfame potassium and sucralose were linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, consumption of aspartame was associated with an increased risk of cerebrovascular events (186 and 151 per 100,000 person-years in higher and non-consumers, respectively) (acesulfame potassium: 167 and 164 per 100,000 person-years; sucralose: 271 and 161 per 100,000 person-years in higher and non-consumers, respectively).

This is an observational study, thus researchers can’t establish the cause or rule out confounding factors.

Nevertheless, this was a sizable study that evaluated people’s consumption of artificial sweeteners using accurate, high-quality dietary data, and the results are consistent with those of earlier studies that have linked exposure to artificial sweeteners with a number of risk factors for disease.

Accordingly, the researchers claim that their findings do not support the idea that CVD outcomes would be improved by replacing added sugar with artificial sweeteners.

They emphasize that additional prospective cohort studies are required to corroborate these findings and that experimental investigations are required to clarify biological processes.

Meanwhile, they argue that this research is crucially important for the ongoing re-evaluation of artificial sweeteners by the European Food Safety Authority, the World Health Organization, and other health bodies.

Source: 10.1136/bmj-2022-071204

Image Credit: Getty

You were reading: Common Food Additives, Consumed Daily By Millions, Increasing Your Risk Of Heart Attack And Stroke


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