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Because they contain zero calories and no sugar, many people assume that artificial sweeteners are better for their health than actual sugar. Whether it's aspartame, saccharin or sucrose, artificial sweeteners mimic the sweetness of sugar but without the calories. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that they are better for your health. According to a new study, people who consume artificial sweeteners on a regular basis are more likely to develop chronic disease than their counterparts who refrain from the substance.

The study, presented at the  Experimental Biology conference earlier this year, linked the consumption of several different artificial sweeteners to obesity and diabetes. Researchers found that consumption of artificial sweeteners resulted in significant changes to biochemicals, amino acids and fats.

"It was not until recently that the negative impact of consuming non-caloric artificial sweeteners in the place of sugar had been increasingly recognized as a potential contributor to the dramatic increase in diabetes and obesity, along with the associated complications," wrote the study's authors when discussing their findings.

Researchers further added that while the human body has mechanisms to control and "handle" sugar, these mechanisms begin to fail when sugar is consumed in excess.

So, if artificial sweetener doesn't contain real sugar or calories, then how does it contribute to chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes? That question remains open for debate, though some experts believe the harmful effects of artificial sweeteners are attributed to the way in which they are processed by the body. Because they mimic the effects of real sugar, artificial sweeteners are processed in a similar way by the body when consumed. Therefore, they too can cause blood sugar spikes, metabolism fluctuations, fat gain and other related health problems.

To put the popularity of artificial sweeteners into perspective, statistics show that more than 137 million Americans consume them on a regular basis, according to data by the U.S. Census Bureau and Simmons National Consumer Survey (NHCS). Artificial sweeteners are commonly found in sodas, cookies, candy bars, cakes, ketchup, sports drinks, jelly and even bread.

The bottom line is that you shouldn't assume artificial sweetener is better for your health than regular sugar. Although it doesn't contain calories, it can still contribute to chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes. By limiting your consumption of both sugar and artificial sweeteners, you'll reap the benefits of better health.

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