Toronto, July 18: Worried about your ever increasing waistline? Cut down the use of artificial sweeteners as they may be associated with long-term weight gain and increased risk of obesity, a study has warned. Artificial sweeteners are substitutes for sugar that provides a sweet taste like that of sugar while containing significantly less food energy. The findings showed that artificial sweeteners or non-nutritive sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite. Thus, individuals consuming artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and stevia, may also be at risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease, the researchers from University of Manitoba in Canada, said. According to researchers, the use of artificial sweeteners which is widespread and increasing is linked with the current epidemic of obesity and related diseases. For the study, published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), the team conducted a randomised controlled trials involving 1,003 people followed for six months on average. The trials did not show a consistent effect of artificial sweeteners on weight loss, and the longer observational studies showed a link between consumption of artificial sweeteners and relatively higher risks of weight gain and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues. "We found that data from clinical trials do not clearly support the intended benefits of artificial sweeteners for weight management," said Ryan Zarychanski, assistant professor at the University of Manitoba. "Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterised," added Meghan Azad, assistant professor, at the University.