The total consumption of sweeteners is “associated” to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This is supported by the findings of a study by a research team from the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm), the National Research Institute for Agriculture, the Food and the Environment (Inrae), the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (Cnam) and the University Sorbonne Paris Nord releases Thursday 8th British Medical Journal.
The researchers gathered in the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN) were interested in the health consequences of the consumption of sweeteners. They analyzed the health records of 103,388 adults participating in the French NutriNet-Santé study for their overall consumption of this type of food additive.
Researchers had previously shown that sweeteners in beverages and foods are linked to a cancer risk. This time they examined the links between sweetener consumption and the risk of cardiovascular diseases (coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease).
For example, sweeteners are found in certain dairy products and a variety of low-fat foods. The study participants, volunteers, provided information about their medical history, their physical activities, their lifestyle and their state of health. Their food consumption was also taken into account over a period of 12 years in order to precisely assess the exposure to additives, especially sweeteners.
From 2009 to 2021, they crossed study participants’ profiles with their consumption habits (alcohol, sodium, saturated and polyunsaturated fat, fiber, sugar, fruits and vegetables, and red and processed meats). From this they deduced that the consumption of sweeteners is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. “Those who initially consumed more sweeteners had a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease over time.” noted Doctor Mathilde Touvier, director of research at Inserm and coordinator of the study.
Heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, the connection had already been made for drinks with sweeteners, including aspartame. The researchers show here for the first time that this also applies to all foods containing sweeteners, sweets, so-called light yoghurts and all low-fat dishes in general.
All of this is conditional, because researchers have so far found only a “Association”no causal relationship yet. “The occasional consumption of sweeteners is not harmful to health”emphasizes Mathilde Touvier. “The important thing is not to consume it too often and in too large quantities.” But she warns: “Sugars are no better than artificial sweeteners. The health authorities’ recommendations are to limit sweet tastes in the diet overall, i.e. both sugar and aspartame.”
These results need to be confirmed by further large-scale studies. But she “do not support the use of sweeteners as safe alternatives to sugar”, underline the authors of the study. Researchers now hope to understand the mechanisms triggering sweeteners in the human body.