In a latest study of French adults, published by the British Medical Journal, researchers indicated that these food additives “should not be considered a healthy and safe alternative to sugar”
Higher consumption of artificial sweeteners may have a direct association with cardiovascular disease risk, including heart attack and stroke, said researchers.
Leading food companies have started using artificial sweeteners in a wide range of food and drinks instead of sugar after the harmful effects of added sugar were established. These foods and drinks are consumed by millions of people worldwide. The use of artificial sweeteners has come under scrutiny in recent years.
Although studies have linked consumption of artificial sweeteners or artificially sweetened beverages to high blood pressure, inflammation and weight gain, there have been mixed reports about the role of artificial sweeteners in cardiovascular disease (CVD).
In the latest study of French adults, published by the British Medical Journal, researchers indicated that these food additives “should not be considered a healthy and safe alternative to sugar”.
A team of researchers at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) studied 103,388 participants with an average age 42 years. Of the total participants, 80 percent were female.
“The results suggest that artificial sweeteners might represent a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease prevention,” The Guardian quoted the researchers as saying.
Consumption of sweeteners from different dietary sources such as drinks, tabletop sweeteners and dairy products were included in the analysis by the researchers, who were led by experts from the Sorbonne Paris Nord University. The data was compared with their risk of heart or circulatory diseases.
The participants were asked to keep records of everything they ate, including the brand. About 37 percent of the participants consumed artificial sweeteners with the average intake being 42.46 mg/day.
The researcher observed the participants for about a decade. During this period, 1,502 cardiovascular events were recorded, including angina, mini strokes, strokes and heart attacks.
The study found that artificial sweetener consumption was associated with a 9 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease. A closer look at the specific types of illness revealed that artificial sweetener consumption was linked to an 18 percent increased risk of cerebrovascular disease.
Aspartame, a specific type of sweetener, was linked to a 17 percent higher risk of cerebrovascular events, the study said.
As it was an observational study, the researchers cannot establish the cause or rule out the possibility of other unknown factors affecting the results.