(HealthDay News) – The role of artificial sweeteners is potentially problematic, with consumption of artificially sweetened beverages (ASBs) associated with increased risks of cardiometabolic diseases, according to a study published online July 10 in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Noting that consumption of artificial sweeteners is increasing, Susan E. Swithers, PhD, from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, discussed the correlation between frequent consumption of sugar substitutes and increased risk of excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The author notes that, across a variety of cohorts, ASB consumers exhibited a greater risk of metabolic syndrome, similar to that of sugar sweetened beverage consumers. ASB consumption was also associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, and vascular events. Consumption of ASBs may be associated with less weight gain in children but it did not impact weight gain or metabolic outcomes in obese adults. Compared with sugars, artificial sweeteners evoked different brain responses, including reduced activation of dopaminergic midbrain areas and in taste-related pathways; distinct brain responses were also noted for those who regularly consume ASBs. Artificial sweeteners did not stimulate insulin or incretin release in vivo, nor did they augment insulin or incretin release in response to meals. Concern has been noted regarding whether artificial sweeteners may weaken learned responses due to their inert effect on glucose homoeostasis.

“Current findings suggest that caution about the overall sweetening of the diet is warranted, regardless of whether the sweetener provides energy directly or not,” the authors write.

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