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Evaluating the effects and health outcomes of non-nutritive sweeteners: analysis of research

Recently, non-nutritive sweeteners (NNSs) have become more pervasive in the market, as more food products have replaced sugar with this calorie-free option. According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, this is an apt moment to evaluate their possible health benefits and, if ever, any adverse effects to the body.

  • Researchers collected all relevant data on the health effects of NNS consumption. For a study to be included in the review, specific factors must be met: It is a study on humans, it must either be an intervention or exposure to artificial sweeteners or NNSs, it reports health outcomes, and it has no restrictions in study design or language.
  • Multiple electronic databases were searched for pertinent data over a period of three years. Sites included Ovid MEDLINE, Embase, and Cochrane Library’s CENTRAL database. The studies were then sifted and grouped depending on the nature of the research.
  • The scoping review yielded 372 studies, of which 15 were systematic reviews, 155 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), 23 non-randomized controlled trials, 57 cohort studies, 52 case-control studies, 28 cross-sectional studies, and 42 case series (including case reports).
  • The results of the analysis were divided between short-term outcomes and long-term outcomes, with the research team recording both positive and negative effects of artificial sweeteners and NNSs.
  • The authors deemed the health outcomes for artificial sweeteners to be inconsistent with numerous gaps in the evidence presented. However, multiple studies have looked into bladder cancer and cancer of the urinary tract – which may potentially bring conclusive results after a systematic review.
  • Non-nutritive sweeteners, on the other hand, may prevent dental caries, according to some studies – in particular, stevia or other natural non-caloric sweeteners have been shown to be effective.
  • In addition, the effects of NNS on diabetes have focused mainly on glycemic control, which could benefit from a full-fledged systematic review, according to researchers.

Overall, the authors highlight the need for well-conducted reviews to summarize results quantitatively and check their integrity.

Find the full text of the study at this link.

Journal Reference:

Lohner S, Toews I, Meerpohl JJ. HEALTH OUTCOMES OF NON-NUTRITIVE SWEETENERS: ANALYSIS OF THE RESEARCH LANDSCAPE. Nutrition Journal. 2017;16(55). DOI: 10.1186/s12937-017-0278-x

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