So say a group of international researchers who reviewed more than 30 studies about the long-term health effects of sugar substitutes, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports for The Washington Post. Their research, published in The Canadian Medical Association Journal, covered more than 406,000 people who said they used artificial sweeteners.
Researcher Meghan Azad of the University of Manitoba said that while the studies show a link between artificial sweeteners and body-mass index, “We need more evidence from better-quality studies to know for sure the cause and effect, but there does seem to be at least a question about the daily consumption of these drinks."
The U.S. market for sodas decreased by 0.6 percent between 2011 and 2016, Wootston notes, but "close to half of adults and a quarter of children consume artificial sweeteners every day, according to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
The American Diabetes Association
But she stressed that they still don't know why these associations exists, and noted that most of the studies focused on people who were working to lose weight or had other medical conditions.
Azad offered several possibilities for the link between artificial sweeteners and increased BMI, ranging from the sweeteners causing changes in gut bacteria to the possibility that people who are gaining weight for other reasons may seek out more artificially sweetened foods.
Meanwhile, she advises "consumers to not automatically assume artificially sweetened foods are the healthier alternative," Wootson writes.