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A review of several scientific studies, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that artificial sweeteners do not support weight management, and also that "routine intake of nonnutritive sweeteners may be associated with increased BMI and cardiometabolic risk." They weren't able to determine if these increased health risks were from using the artificial sweeteners, or were just associated with people who use them.
Related: How To Bake With 12 Natural Sugar Substitutes
This news is important to consider, since another study found that 25% of U.S. children and 41% of adults reported consuming them as often as once per day. Often people don't even realize they are eating artificial sweeteners, as they are hidden in common items like yogurts and granola bars, as well as more obviously present in iced teas and diet sodas. (Here are 7 healthy swaps for junk food snacks.)
The best plan? Cut down on sugar
The studies are not conclusive, so a minimal, or very structured, use of artificial sweeteners shouldn't set off any major health alarms, and could even be helpful with weight loss: "The available evidence suggests that sweeteners may help with weight loss if they are carefully used as a one-to-one replacement for sugar-sweetened drinks or foods as part of a structured weight-loss program," Allison Sylvetsky Meni, an assistant professor at George Washington University told NPR.
However, sweeteners are rarely used this way, and are most often overused on an almost daily basis as quick-fix. (Here are the 7 hidden dangers of using artificial sweeteners.)
Related: 6 Things That Happened When I Stopped Eating Sugar
So, yes: artificial sweeteners should be ditched from (or at least minimized in) your diet. But the bigger problem at stake is a common addiction to all types of sweeteners. Too much sugar, natural or artificial, is tough on your body and your heart, and the quicker you can train your palate away from the expectation of constant sugar-intake, the better. Here are 19 ways to give up sugar that you can start working on today.
The open secret to better health? The more you cut down on sugar in your diet, the less likely you will be to crave it on a regular basis, and the healthier you'll be.