Possible Health Problems Associated with Artificial Sweeteners

16 Dec

Evidence from a recent study suggests consuming the maximum acceptable daily intake of artificial sweeteners may negatively affect gut bacteria, potentially causing glucose intolerance within a short period of time.

No one wants to be overweight or have any of the health problems associated with it such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, osteoarthritis, and cancer, just to name a few. And, nearly everyone’s ears perk up if they hear someone offering simple and easy “short-cut secrets” to lose extra weight so they can look and feel great.

That’s why the weight-loss industry is BIG BUSINESS.  Estimates put the value of the weight-loss industry at 60.5 BILLION (with a “B”) in 2013 with expectation that it will continue to grow for many years to come.

One of the biggest “breakthroughs” in the diet industry was the invention of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. There has been quite a bit of debate as to the safety and effectiveness of these products for weight loss.  According the research published in Nature, “Non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) are among the most widely used food additives worldwide, regularly consumed by lean and obese individuals alike. NAS consumption is considered safe and beneficial owing to their low caloric content, yet supporting scientific data remain sparse and controversial.”

Artificial sweeteners are often referred to as non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS).  NAS are synthetic substitutes for sugar that can be up to 20,000 times sweeter than their natural counterpart.

The biggest selling point for these NAS is that they aren’t considered to contain calories.  Holding all other variables constant, logic assumes that digesting fewer calories leads to weight loss.

But because some of the research regarding NAS is conflicting, the Weizmann Institute conducted a series of experiments on both mice and humans to try to get to the bottom of all this once and for all.

To start, they added the maximum acceptable intake for humans of NAS (as defined by the FDA) to the water of laboratory mice. The artificial sweeteners used in the study were aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose.

Results:  “After 11 weeks, mice consuming NAS showed significant glucose intolerance as compared to control mice consuming only water or water with added glucose. They also repeated the experiments with different breeds of mice and found the same thing.”

The researchers theorized that artificial sweeteners have a negative effect on good gut bacteria, which may be the cause of the glucose intolerance they observed. They checked the gut bacteria population in the mice, and the results indicated their theory was correct.

Next, the researchers gathered data on 381 humans to see if their results were the similar.

“They found an association between self-reported NAS consumption and glucose intolerance and also differences in gut microbiome profiles between those consuming lots of NAS and those that did not consume them.”

In other words, for the NAS the researchers tested, it appears they have the same result on humans as they did on mice in their initial studies.

Here is the conclusion reached by the researchers in the study published in Nature: “Collectively, our results link NAS consumption, dysbiosis and metabolic abnormalities, thereby calling for a reassessment of massive NAS usage.”

As with all research, one study is not a definitive answer, and more research must be done.  But, people who are consuming large quantities of these artificial sweeteners might want to re-think this habit.

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