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Think you’re helping your waistline by swapping sugar for artificial sweeteners? Unfortunately, not.

In an ironic twist, new research presented at the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting shows how these no-calorie substitutes can still lead people to obesity and diabetes.

And so the debate against artificial sweeteners continues.

According to a press release by Experimental Biology, the researchers were looking for specific biochemical changes when comparing sugar versus artificial sweeteners.

To analyze these effects, researchers tested these sugars on rats as well as cell cultures.

For 3 weeks, separate groups of rats ate a diet high in glucose or fructose. Other groups ate a diet high in aspartame or acesulfame potassium, both commonly used sugar substitutes.

By the end of the study, the scientists had observed significant biochemical changes. These changes differed between sugar and sugar substitutes.

But what did not differ was the negative effect these changes had on the body.

So while many people reach for a sugar substitute in order to slim down, the irony is that the sweetener doesn’t have that effect.

The Effects of Sugar

People have known about the negative effects of sugar for some time now. It’s that knowledge that has led buyers and sellers into trying new products—like artificial sweeteners.

While researchers are debating over those sugar substitutes, they have little doubt about sugar’s negative impact.

Women’s Health describes a few harmful effects, including the up-and-down energy sugar provides. Even worse, your body can become overloaded with it, causing the body to produce too much insulin.

For the part that turns into fructose, you can have many unwanted results as well. For instance, too much fructose can lower good cholesterol. As time goes on, you could even cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Is all sugar bad then?

The answer might depend on who you ask and the context. The researchers above attest that your body can handle some sugar in moderation. Too much, though, and you will overwhelm your system.  

How Much Sugar Should You Consume?

Sugar does lead to obesity and heart disease—the research confirms that fact. To reduce your risk, you have to limit your sugar intake.

The American Heart Association recommends:

Women should consume no more than 25 grams of sugar per day. And men should consume no more than 36 grams of sugar per day.

For reference, one can of soda contains 12 grams of sugar.

You can reduce your intake by avoiding many pre-packaged foods or choosing ones with little to no sugar. Many drinks, like soda and sweet tea, are highly sweetened sources as well.

At the same time, science also suggests that you shouldn’t switch a sugary food or drink for its artificially-sweetened version. A soda with aspartame will still add to your waistline and risk diabetes.

Instead, moderation is the key.