Artificial Sweeteners & Cardiovascular Risk Increase

Mathilde Touvier, MD, and colleagues of the Sorbonne Paris Nord University published an observational study in the British Medical Journal online edition showing a link between consumption of artificial sweeteners and cardiovascular disease. Their study looked at total daily consumption of artificially sweetened drinks and consumption from foods as well as sweetener added from packets to food or beverages.

The study included over 103,000 French adults who were followed for an average of nine years.  The participants consumed on average the equivalent of 100 ml of diet soda or one individual packet of tabletop sweetener (42.46 mg/day). These individuals had a 9% increased risk of a heart attack, stroke, need for a cardiac catheterization and angioplasty or transient ischemic attack compared to those who did not use artificial sweeteners.

The researchers could not find a “safe daily dosage” below which the sweeteners did not increase risk. They did note that the higher the consumption of artificial sweetener the higher the risk of a cardiovascular event.  Aspartame intake was associated with an increased risk of cerebrovascular events while acesulfame potassium and sucralose increased the risk of a coronary event. It is felt that these sweeteners influence insulin sensitivity ultimately resulting in increased risk for a disease event.

A synopsis of the study was published in the online journal MDedge Internal Medicine.  This article included an opinion by researchers who published studies supported by the artificial sweeteners industry which dispute the methods and conclusions of Dr Touvier’s study.

Until the answers are resolved, it appears avoiding artificial sweeteners is as good an idea as avoiding too much sugar. I prefer limiting sugars at 16 calories per teaspoon compared to risking the potential ill effects of artificial sweeteners.