Artificial Sweeteners, Not Good, Not Bad

Artificial sweeteners offer no health benefits, a large review of studies found. But it found no proof that they do any harm, either.

Researchers looked at 35 observational studies and 21 controlled trials of nonsugar sweeteners in children and adults. Some compared intake of sweeteners with no intake; others compared lower with higher intakes.

They found no convincing evidence that nonsugar sweeteners had any effect in adults on eating behavior, cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, mood, behavior or cognition. The study, in BMJ, did find a slight benefit in promoting weight loss and improving fasting blood glucose levels, but only in small studies and over short periods of time.

Eight studies in children showed similar results. Some studies found weak evidence that children who used artificial sweeteners had larger increases in blood glucose levels than those who used sugar.

The lead author, Dr. Joerg J. Meerpohl, of the University of Freiburg, said that “the goal of the work was to summarize the evidence, not to make practical recommendations,” and although they found no evidence of harm, they could not exclude the possibility, either.

In any case, he said, “There’s no need to have them in your food. There are cheaper and widely available alternatives to artificially sweetened foods. You can always have water instead of Diet Coke.”

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