Red Flags Raised for Artificial Sweeteners
Caution! Artificial sweeteners may raise the risk of metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes. In a study published in the prestigious journal, Nature, researchers found that feeding lab mice three commonly used non-caloric sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose), relative to feeding them sugar water or plain water, lead to dramatic alterations of their intestinal bacteria and glucose intolerance. (Glucose intolerance is the precursor to type 2 diabetes). As part of this series of studies, the researchers also conducted a similar experiment in a small group of human subjects. The results were comparable. In a significant number of the human subjects, consuming the artificial sweeteners lead to alterations in their intestinal bacteria along with some degree of glucose intolerance.
Although further human studies are certainly needed to confirm these findings, it raises a big red flag. We now know that intestinal bacteria play a huge role in how the foods we eat affect us, and studies thus far have not been conducted to specifically evaluate how non-caloric sweeteners may alter the human micobiome. Furthermore, there is virtually no evidence proving that sugar substitutes help us with long-term weight control. They also exploit our taste bud’s highly entrenched love for sweets, so I have always discouraged their habitual use. This study certainly adds to my reservations. (Nature, doi:10.1038/nature13793)
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