This article was updated on October 10, 2021.
Swapping a sugary cola for a diet cola sweetened with aspartame might not be the healthy option we once believed it to be. While sugary drinks dense in high fructose corn syrup and other pound packing additives are pretty bad for your physical and mental well-being, drinks containing artificial sweeteners are worse for your heart.
This research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology speculates the adverse effects aspartame and other non-sugar substitutes can have on our cardiovascular system.
The research panel led by Eloi Chazelas Ph.D., Charlotte Debras Ph.D., Dr. Bernard Srour, Leopold K. Fezeu MD., Chantal Julia MD., Serge Hercberg MD., Melanie Deschasaux Ph.D., and Mathilde Touvier Ph.D. uncovered the following information about the correlative relationship between poor heart health and the consumption of beverages with sugar substitutes. Here’s what they found out in exclusive detail, here.
The case study
While more research needs to be conducted this trial experiment does unveil a link between cardiovascular disease and consumption of “diet” branded drinks sweetened with chemical additives as opposed to real sugar. The research panel from the French NutriNet-Santé group collected a large sample of data from 104,760 willing participants.
One of the researchers from the panel delves into the experimental process to gather this important information to aid those trying to stay heart healthy for myriad different reasons.
“They were asked to fill out three validated web-based 24-hour dietary records every six months. Artificially sweetened beverages were defined as those containing non-nutritive sweeteners. Sugary drinks consisted of all beverages containing 5% or more sugar. For each beverage category, participants were divided into non-consumers, low consumers and high consumers.”
How did researchers measure the level of cardiovascular irregularities in the sample?
After the 6 month trial they observed the following in participants that had a history of high consumption of artificial sweeteners:
- Slightly higher incidence of stroke, transient ischemic attack, myocardial infarction, acute coronary syndrome and angioplasty
- These symptoms all fall under the umbrella of being high risk for first incident cardiovascular disease
- 1,379 participants reported any number of the aforementioned side effects meaning about 1,000 out of every 100,000 participants experienced bad side effects related to heart health after putting more artificial sweeteners in their system compared to moderate and low consumers of this “healthy” substitute
While one percent of this sample size seems like a paltry statistic any person reporting cardiovascular distress at any level is cause enough for concern. This study results definitely warrant further research around this cause-effect relationship between our heart health and sugar substitutes.
This is still pretty new information so the lead author of the study, Eloi Chazelas, Ph.D., has the following disclaimer to add to this discussion.
“To establish a causal link between sugary and artificially sweetened beverages and cardiovascular disease, replication in large-scale prospective cohorts and mechanistic investigations will be needed.”
Diet culture isn’t always the healthiest option
If diet culture seems problematic and frustrates you to no end you’re not alone and enjoying drinks with natural sweetener or real sugar could be healthier for your heart in the long run. I would avoid these sugar substitutes if you have any pre-existing heart conditions:
- Acesulfame K
- High fructose corn syrup
Many of these sugar substitutes have other adverse effects such as the increased risk for developing cancer, thyroid issues, diabetes, obesity, neurological disorders, depression, and nausea.
The more your daily sugar intake is, especially the combination of both fructose and high fructose corn syrup, the more your liver creates and pumps out uric acid and triglycerides into your bloodstream which have lasting harmful side effects.
“High triglycerides may contribute to hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls (arteriosclerosis) — which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. Extremely high triglycerides can also cause acute inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). High triglycerides are often a sign of other conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, including obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels.”
Just sit back and enjoy that chocolate cake with real sugar, people with thicker thighs live longer anyway.
The head researcher of the study cited earlier gives you permission to rid your pantry of unhealthy tasteless sugar substitutes with this delicious conclusion.
“Our study suggests artificially sweetened beverages may not be a healthy substitute for sugar drinks, and these data provide additional arguments to fuel the current debate on taxes, labeling and regulation of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages.”