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Here’s Why Artificial Sweeteners Actually Lead to Obesity and Diabetes


The growing awareness of the adverse effects of sugar on health has fueled an increase in the use of artificial sweeteners in the past few decades. Yet a new study adds to earlier research that indicates sugar substitutes offer no solution; they actually cause health changes linked to obesity and diabetes — the conditions they were designed to help.

Artificial sweeteners are included in a host of diet and zero-calories foods and beverages around the world. Although some research has associated the additives with adverse health effects, other studies have been inconclusive or their results have been questioned due to potential bias.

The new study is the largest investigation to date that examines biochemical body changes after consumption of sugar or artificial sweeteners using a method called unbiased high-throughput metabolomics. The researchers assessed how the substances impact vascular health by observing how they affect the lining of blood vessels. The study was conducted on rats and cell cultures.

“Despite the addition of these non-caloric artificial sweeteners to our everyday diets, there has still been a drastic rise in obesity and diabetes,” said lead researcher Brian Hoffmann, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Marquette University. “In our studies, both sugar and artificial sweeteners seem to exhibit negative effects linked to obesity and diabetes, albeit through very different mechanisms from each other.”

Artificial Sweeteners Harm Fat and Energy Metabolism

Hoffmann and his colleagues fed one group of rats a diet containing the common artificial sweeteners of aspartame or acesulfame potassium, while they fed another group of rats a diet high in forms of sugar like fructose and glucose. At the end of three weeks, the team saw significant differences in levels of fats, amino acids and biochemicals in blood samples.

The findings indicated that artificial sweeteners alter how the body gets its energy and processes fat. Moreover, they showed acesulfame potassium builds up in the blood, and higher levels perpetrate more harm on cells that line the blood vessels.

“We observed that in moderation, your body has the machinery to handle sugar; it is when the system is overloaded over a long period of time that this machinery breaks down,” Hoffmann said. “We also observed that replacing these sugars with non-caloric artificial sweeteners leads to negative changes in fat and energy metabolism.”

The study was presented at the American Physiological Society annual meeting during the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting, held April 21 to 25 in San Diego.

Which Is Worse — Sugar or Artificial Sweeteners?

The researchers involved in the above study said the results don’t give a definite answer and the question merits further investigation. However, some experts like Dr. Joseph Mercola believe that the preponderance of evidence suggests artificial sweeteners may be worse for obesity and diabetes. He writes that studies comparing the weight gain of people who drink diet soda with those who drink sugary beverages show the diet soda drinkers gain more weight. Research also suggests aspartame worsens insulin sensitivity, which increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes, adds Mercola.

Each year brings more troubling news about sweeteners from the scientific community. According to a 2016 Cleveland Clinic report, aspartame caused cancer in three independent animal studies. A 2017 study also found a link between drinking diet soda and increased stroke and dementia risk.

On top of all the above effects, artificial sweeteners are addictive. Harvard cites a study that showed when rats were given a choice of cocaine or saccharine, most opted for the saccharine.

It’s best to stick with small amounts of sweeteners made in nature rather than a lab, such as local honey and maple syrup, recommends Dr. Peter Osborne, the clinical director of Origins Health Care in Sugar Land, Texas. For optimal nutrition, he advocates satisfying a sweet tooth by eating organic fruit.


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 Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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