A study finds common sugar substitutes, namely, aspartame, saccharin and sucralose, lead to a higher risk of glucose intolerance, a condition that can lead to diabetes. Ironically, the use of these products has also been linked to obesity.
Artificial Sweeteners Affect Gut Microbes
The idea for the research came when the scientists wondered why, anecdotally, people who consume artificial sweeteners in order to cut calories actually end up gaining weight. They discovered the sweeteners cause their body to lose the ability to handle glucose, which is sugar in its simplest form
Why does this happen? The researchers suspect the sugar substitutes alter the microbiome, the bacterial community within the gut. They postulate that the different mix of microbes has a detrimental effect on glucose metabolism, a factor that causes levels to increase higher after eating and then decrease more slowly than they normally would.
Effects of Artificial Sweeteners on Glucose Metabolism Were Compelling and Dramatic
In a series of investigations, researchers explored how aspartame, saccharin and sucralose affect gut microbes along with blood glucose levels. The adverse effects of the artificial sweeteners on glucose metabolism was “very dramatic,” says coauthor Eran Segal. Furthermore, the response was seen in experiments involving people as well as those involving mice.
Published in the journal Nature, the research consisted of the following:
- In the first experiment, the scientists added the artificial sweeteners to the drinking water of mice. The amount added was within the daily consumption limits recommended by the Food and Drug Administration. They compared the response of this group to that of a group of mice that was given water with table sugar. After a week, the group that was fed the sugar substitutes displayed a marked intolerance to glucose. Interestingly, the group that was fed the sugar water showed little change.
- To explore the issue further, the scientists took gut microbes from mice that drank saccharin-laced water and injected them into mice that had not taken the sweetener. The latter group developed the same glucose intolerance manifested by the former group.
- Another experiment evaluated approximately 400 people and discovered those who used the most artificial sweeteners had the highest likelihood of having blood sugar problems. In addition, the gut bacteria of those who used the sweeteners were different from those who didn’t.
- A third experiment involved seven people who normally didn’t use artificial sweeteners. After the researchers watched them closely for a week and gave them controlled amounts of saccharin, four showed a significant rise in blood sugar.
In a commentary accompanying the research, Cathryn R. Nagler, a professor of pathology at the University of Chicago, declared the findings “very compelling.” “What the study suggests is we should step back and reassess our extensive use of artificial sweeteners,” she states.
“This huge and poorly understood microbial world, which resides in each and every one of us starting from birth, has been shown to play a fundamental role in many aspects of our physiology, as well as in [our] susceptibility to common human diseases,” notes Eran Elinav, lead author. “Our findings beg reconsideration of the massive, unregulated use of these substances.”
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.