Replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners used in Diet Coke and other soft drinks has no effect on weight loss and their long-term health effects are still poorly understood, a major scientific review has said.
In the largest analysis of the health effects of non-sugar sweeteners to date, German researchers found little robust evidence to support claimed health benefits or to rule out increased harm from long term use.
A small number of studies showed slowed weight gain when sugar was replaced by sweeteners. However, from the 56 studies in the review, this effect was of “low or very low certainty” and there was no evidence that swapping to sweeteners could help obese patients lose weight.
Other studies raised fears that increased artificial sweetener consumption could increase cancer risk, but there was no such link found in the review.
The study, led by University of Freiburg, was published in The BMJ and also highlighted a stark lack research on the long-term health effects of sweeteners when taken over years or decades – in part due to the difficulty of enlisting people to take part in such a study.
A mounting obesity crisis in the UK and other developed nations has driven the proliferation of diet alternatives which use artificial sweeteners like aspartame, to replace more calorific sugar.
However the lack of long-term studies has meant fears of health risks have also risen, with one 2017 study warning daily diet drink consumption was linked to increased rates of stroke or dementia.'
Read more: No evidence swapping sugar for artificial sweeteners helps weight loss, major review warns