A study by an international group of researchers has revealed that artificial sweeteners were not only bad for weight management, but people who had them routinely had an increased body mass index and risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
''I think originally it was calories were the problem, and we've made something that was zero calories, so we're good,'' Meghan Azad, the study leader, of the University of Manitoba, Canada, told The Washington Post. ''But we're learning that it's not just about the calories.''
A lot hung in the balance, as the US market for sodas contracted 0.6 per cent between 2011 and 2016, The Washington Post's Caitlin Dewey reported. Also Americans had switched to healthier alternatives. That apart, nearly a quarter of children consumed artificial sweeteners every day, according to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Many mistakenly believed that a diet soda or two a day was good for them, not much different from guzzling large quantities of water, according to Azad. Others might be unwittingly consuming artificial sweeteners in products such as yogurt and granola bars.
''We need more evidence from better quality studies to know for sure the cause and effect, but there does seem to be at least a question about the daily consumption of these drinks,'' she said.
"People are generally consuming non-nutritive sweeteners believing they are a 'healthy choice,' but this may not be true," said Azad CNN reported.
"This is especially important given the widespread and increasing consumption of artificial sweeteners in the general population, and the increasing use of artificial sweeteners in our food supply," Azad said.
According to Azad, over 40 per cent of adult Americans consumed no-cal sweeteners on a daily basis, and studies that measured the sweeteners in blood and urine showed that many people who reported not using artificial sweeteners were unknowingly consuming them.
According to commentators, this came as latest assault in the ongoing debate over artificial sweeteners and their impact on health - a debate that began when one of US' most popular foods, sugar, came under the scanner on health grounds.