New study finds sweetener alternatives may cause weight gain, increase risk for diabetes

DENVER -- A new study on artificial sweeteners is leaving many Americans with a bitter taste. 

Substitutes containing aspartame, sucralose and stevioside -- more commonly known as Equal, Splenda and Stevia respectively -- may not be a healthy alternative to sugar after all.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Journal, looked at more than 400,000 people who regularly used artificial sweeteners and found they were more likely to gain weight, have high blood pressure and possibly develop strokes.

"It seems to be a very important study," said Dr. Eric Liu of Presbyterian/St. Lukes Medical Center in Denver. 

Dr. Liu said they've long suspected artificial sweeteners cause people to eat more and gain weight, but the study also found they change the bacteria in your gut, in turn, affecting your metabolism.

"It turns out the relationship between those little bacteria and those little things inside of our colons and inside of our digestive track are very important to the way we process food and even the way we metabolize," said Dr. Liu.

If you're like 30 percent of American adults who consume artificial sweeteners daily, that's hard news to swallow.

"Our body's dependent on what we eat and being able to control what we eat in portion, in quality in types of food that we choose, is critically important to maintaining overall good health," said Dr. Liu.

So, whether you're using a sweet alternative to cut calories or because you simply like the taste better, Dr. Liu said good old fashioned exercise and portion control would likely keep you healthier.

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