Artificial sweeteners are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, study finds

Artificial sweeteners are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and “should not be considered a healthy and safe alternative to sugar,” according to researchers.

The harmful effects of added sugars have long been established for multiple chronic diseases, leading food companies to use artificial sweeteners in a wide range of foods and beverages consumed daily by millions of people worldwide.

However, its use has come under greater scrutiny in recent years, although study results have been divided on its role in various diseases.

Its role in cardiovascular disease has previously been suggested in experimental studies, but data from human studies were limited and previous observational studies focused solely on artificially sweetened beverages used as substitutes.

Now, the results of a large-scale prospective cohort study suggest a possible direct association between higher artificial sweetener consumption and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Our results indicate that these food additives, consumed daily by millions of people and present in thousands of foods and beverages, should not be considered a healthy and safe alternative to sugar, in line with the current position of several agencies of health”, the researchers. he wrote in the BMJ.

In the study, of 103,000 French adults, artificial sweeteners were associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and coronary heart disease. “The results suggest that artificial sweeteners could represent a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease prevention,” they wrote.

The research, led by experts from Sorbonne Paris Nord University, looked at the intake of sweeteners from all dietary sources, including drinks, table sweeteners and dairy products, and compared it with their risk of disease cardiac or circulatory.

Participants had an average age of 42 and four out of five were women. Sweetener intake was tracked using diet records.

Participants wrote down everything they ate, including what brand, for 24 hours, with their diet diary repeated three times at six-month intervals: twice during the week and once at the weekend. 37% of them consumed artificial sweeteners.

During an average follow-up period of about a decade, 1,502 cardiovascular events were recorded, including heart attacks, strokes, mini-strokes and angina pectoris.

Consumption of the artificial sweetener was linked to a 9% higher risk of cardiovascular disease, the BMJ reported. When the researchers looked at specific types of disease, they found that artificial sweetener consumption was linked to an 18 percent higher risk of cerebrovascular disease, conditions that affect blood flow to the brain.

A specific type of sweetener, aspartame, was associated with a 17% increased risk of cerebrovascular events, while acesulfame potassium and sucralose were linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

The study was observational, so the cause cannot be established, nor can we rule out the possibility that other unknown factors may have affected the results. However, the researchers said, this was a large study that assessed artificial sweetener intake using accurate, high-quality dietary data, and the findings were in line with other studies linking artificial sweeteners with markers of poor health. More studies were needed, they said.

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