Sugar substitutes aren’t exactly health’s silver bullet, but are they a good start?
A recent review of 56 studies on artificial and low calorie sweeteners showed the jury is still out on whether they are the saviors from sugar once hoped.
There’s just no conclusive evidence yet. The studies have been too small in size and not long enough to provide ample evidence for health benefits and they couldn’t rule out potential dangers.
Cochrane, an international non-profit research group, helmed the review for the World Health Organization. The results were recently published in the British Medical Journal.
The studies included non-sugar sweeteners or NNS, like aspartame or low to no calorie alternatives like Stevia.
The push for sugar alternatives has come to combat the growing obesity crisis. The Public Health England (PHE) declared a need to reduce sugar content in products, asking for a reduction of 20 percent by 2020. They hoped to cut five percent by April 2018, but only achieve a two percent decline.
The Cochrane review aimed to answer WHO’s questions about the effects on adult and children’s health, with a focus on obesity.
The studies measured consumer weight, blood sugar, oral health and mental health along with the presence of cancer, cardiovascular disease or kidney disease.
Those alternative sweeteners showed no significant weight loss or health benefits no matter the dosage. There was also no evidence of major safety issues either.
The bottom line from the review is that more comprehensive studies are needed.
“The findings of this study are not surprising and confirm the view that artificial sweeteners are not a magic bullet to prevent obesity,” said Tom Sanders, emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London. “Replacement of sugary drinks with artificial sweeteners helps prevent weight gain in children, but is not superior to the preferred alternative–water.”