A recent study published in the journal Nutrients has revealed some surprising trends in the consumption of artificial sweeteners among non-diabetic adults in Brazil. The study, conducted by researchers from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte and the University of São Paulo, analyzed data from the Brazilian National Dietary Survey 2018-2019, which included 34,003 participants aged 20 years or older.
The study found that artificial sweeteners were widely used in Brazil, with 28.6% of the participants reporting consuming at least one type of artificial sweetener in the previous day. The most commonly consumed artificial sweeteners were sucralose (18.9%), aspartame (10.4%), and acesulfame potassium (9.7%). The main sources of artificial sweeteners were beverages (77.4%), followed by dairy products (9.9%), and sweets (7.2%).
The study also revealed that the consumption of artificial sweeteners varied according to sociodemographic and lifestyle factors. For instance, women, older adults, urban residents, people with higher education and income levels, and those who reported following a diet or having a chronic disease were more likely to consume artificial sweeteners than their counterparts. Moreover, artificial sweetener consumption was positively associated with the intake of ultra-processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, and added sugars, and negatively associated with the intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Artificial sweeteners may have adverse health effects
The authors of the study pointed out that the widespread use of artificial sweeteners in Brazil may have adverse health implications, especially considering the high prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases in the country. They cited previous studies that have suggested that artificial sweeteners may alter the gut microbiota, increase the appetite and preference for sweet foods, impair glucose metabolism, and increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
The authors also noted that the safety of artificial sweeteners is still a matter of debate, as some of them have been linked to carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and genotoxic effects in animal and human studies. They called for more research to evaluate the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners on health outcomes, as well as to monitor the exposure and consumption patterns of these additives in the Brazilian population.
Artificial sweeteners are not a healthy alternative to sugar
The study concluded that artificial sweeteners are not a healthy alternative to sugar, as they may have negative impacts on health and nutrition. The authors recommended that the consumption of artificial sweeteners should be limited or avoided, and that natural and minimally processed foods should be preferred over ultra-processed foods that contain these additives. They also suggested that public policies and regulations should be implemented to reduce the availability and accessibility of artificial sweeteners, as well as to inform and educate consumers about their potential risks.