hose looking to shed a few pounds by using artificial sweeteners to cut calories may not only be sabotaging their diets, but could be putting themselves at risk for diabetes and related health threats. Let me put this another way: ‘this stuff is crap AND toxic!
That’s basically the conclusion that can be drawn from study results published in the journal Nature by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. But, of course, if we ask the Food and Drug Administration – they would say ‘it’s safe.’ (yeah right)
Changes in gut bacteria lead to higher blood glucose levels
The Weizmann scientists found that non-caloric sweeteners can damage gut health, spurring glucose intolerance in mice and some people. The changes observed were nearly identical to the kind of gut changes previously linked to obesity and diabetes in humans, the researchers noted.
They found that mice given a 10 percent solution of one of three commonly used artificial sweeteners – aspartame, saccharin or sucralose – were found to have elevated levels of glucose in their blood at 11 weeks when compared to mice receiving plain water or even a 10 percent glucose solution.
Elevated glucose, sometimes referred to as hyperglycemia or glucose intolerance, is considered a pre-diabetic state and is associated with such ills as insulin resistance, early heart disease, diabetes, and other serious health complications. The condition is also associated with a higher incidence of mortality.
Saccharin was found to have the most pronounced effects on gut health of the three artificial sweeteners used, though all impacted gut health and subsequently, glucose levels.
In follow-up experiments, mice were fed a high-fat diet along with a 10 percent saccharin solution. The resulting impact on glucose metabolism mimicked results found when the animals were given a regular diet and a much higher saccharin dose. This suggests that higher fat consumption could intensify the saccharin’s metabolic impact.
Metagenomic sequencing revealed that mice given saccharin had a different gut bacteria profile than those given water or a glucose solution. Researchers were then able to identify a specific microbe-mediated mechanism that allows artificial sweeteners to have an impact on glucose metabolism.
Higher blood glucose increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease
The team found a similar metabolic response and change in gut bacteria in humans. Observing a group of 381 non-diabetic volunteers who answered questions about their eating habits, those who indicated they consumed artificial sweeteners also showed higher fasting glucose levels.
These same subjects exhibited poorer glucose tolerance and altered gut microbe profiles compared to those who did not consume artificial sweeteners. These differences were more pronounced when higher amounts of artificial sweeteners were consumed and persisted even when results were corrected for body mass index.
Misguided dieters risk illness and premature death
Results of the mouse and human trials add to evidence that consuming artificial sweeteners may actually lead to obesity and diabetes, rather than helping consumers avoid these conditions. While the connection has been hinted at in previous studies, the Weizmann experiments were significant because they provided specific evidence about how these sweeteners change the population of intestinal bacteria.
A healthy gut bacteria profile is important since these microbes are responsible for directing metabolism, the conversion of food into energy for the body or as stored fuel for later use. Artificial sweeteners are some of the most widely used food additives worldwide, prized for their ability to add a sweet taste without adding calories. Those unable to tolerate sugar as well as those looking to lose weight are drawn to products containing these alternative sweeteners.
Don’t be lured into danger by deceptive marketing tactics. Mounting evidence is showing there are metabolic consequences to using aspartame, sucralose and other artificial sweeteners. The trade-off for a no-calorie sweet taste may come in the form of serious health problems. Is it worth the risk?