Artificial sweeteners may seem like a good idea in theory—they’re virtually free of calories and pack in zero grams of sugar, allowing you to enjoy something sweet without the guilt or weight gain. In practice, not so much.
A recent Canadian Medical Association Journal review of 37 studies, which analyzed the habits of nearly 406,000 people, discovered that non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, and stevioside actually don’t support weight management and may be associated with weight gain and cardiometabolic risk if consumed regularly. In fact, the number of reg consumers of the stuff is so high that a 2017 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that 25 percent of kids and about 41 percent of adults reported adding low-cal sweeteners to their diets.
“We were really interested in the everyday person who is consuming these products not to lose weight, but because they think it’s the healthier choice, for many years on end,” explained Meghan Azad, lead author of the review and research scientist at University of Manitoba. According to the information we currently have on hand, “there is no clear benefit for weight loss, and there’s a potential association with increased weight gain, diabetes, and other negative cardiovascular outcomes.”
To tread on the safe side, limiting use of sweeteners—with the eventual goal of cutting out added sugars completely—is your best bet. In fact, research in Zero Sugar Diet proves that giving up the sweet stuff will melt away fat, help you control your appetite, flatten your belly, slash your risk of diabetes, strengthen your muscles, and even give your body the energy it’s been missing. A good place to start? Crack the book open, stop sprinkling Splenda into your AM java, and quit buying these 14 “Health” Foods Worse Than a Donut.