What seems like an obvious choice to lose weight doesn’t look so obvious based on available data.
The theory behind artificial sweeteners is simple: If you use them instead of sugar, you get the joy of sweet-tasting beverages and foods without the downer of extra calories, potential weight gain and related health issues.
In practice, it’s not so simple, as a review of the scientific evidence on non-nutritive sweeteners published Monday shows.
After looking at two types of scientific research, the authors conclude that there is no solid evidence that sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose help people manage their weight. And observational data suggest that the people who regularly consume these sweeteners are also more likely to develop future health problems, though those studies can’t say those problems are caused by the sweeteners.
The health effects of artificial sweeteners are important to study, because so many people use them. Another study published earlier this year found that a quarter of U.S. children and 41 percent of adults reported consuming them, most of them once per day. Even more people may be consuming them unwittingly in products such as granola bars or yogurt.