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Sugar Substitutes May Cut Calories
but Not Benefit Obese Individuals

Artificial sweeteners help individuals with obesity to cut calories and lose weight but may have negative health effects, according to researchers at York University's faculty of health.

"Our study shows that individuals with obesity who consume artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, may have worse glucose management than those who don't take sugar substitutes," says Jennifer Kuk, PhD, an associate professor and obesity researcher in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University.

Normally, weight loss is associated with several improvements in health. Artificial sweeteners are often used to help individuals cut calories and manage their weight, as they aren't digested by the body. However, the recent study suggests that the bacteria in the gut may be able to break down artificial sweeteners, resulting in negative health effects.

"We didn't find this adverse effect in those consuming saccharin or natural sugars," Kuk says. "We will need to do future studies to determine whether any potentially negative health effects of artificial sweeteners outweigh the benefits for obesity reduction."

Currently, there are many new sugar substitutes that are used in foods. The researchers note that further investigation is needed to determine whether there are any health effects of using these sweeteners.

For the study, data from 2,856 US adults from the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey was used. Individuals reported their diet over the past 24 hours and were categorized as consumers of artificial sweeteners (aspartame or saccharin) or high or low consumers of natural sugars (sugar or fructose). Diabetes risk was measured as the ability to manage blood sugars using an oral glucose tolerance test.

— Source: York University

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