July 25, 2024

New Study Says Artificial Sweeteners May Induce Glucose Intolerance

A new study published in Nature and conducted by researchers in Israel states that while more study is needed, artificial sweeteners may induce glucose intolerance and promote diabetes. They say that the chemicals change the composition of bacteria in your gut, which changes how the body handles sugar.  Studies have shown that these artificial sweeteners do not aid in weight loss, and may actually contribute to weight gain.

Artificial sweeteners Non-caloric sweeteners (NAS), or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are widely used. While they are considered generally safe, scientific data supporting that view is sparse. Obesity and diabetes are linked to changes in gut bacteria, so the scientists looked at the effect of these chemicals on the microbiome in intestines.

The researchers added saccharin (Sweet’N Low) and sucralose (Splenda) to the diets of 10-week old mice. The control subjects drank plain water or water that had glucose and table sugar added.

After just one week, the group of mice consuming artificial sweeteners developed glucose intolerance, while the controls groups did not. The scientists then gave the mice antibiotics, which killed most of the bacteria in their digestive system; the glucose intolerance went away.

In further study, researchers harvested gut bacteria from mice who drank the artificially sweetened water and put them into mice who had never been exposed to saccharin. Those mice developed glucose intolerance. DNA sequencing of the bacteria showed that saccharin changed the type of bacteria in the gut.

Finally, research on people found a correlation between those who reported consuming sugar substitutes and signs of glucose intolerance, using data from their Personalized Nutrition Project, which is a human trial studying the connection between nutrition and gut bacteria. They also found that the intestinal bacteria of those who did use artificial sweeteners were different from those who did not consume those chemicals.

Dr. Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute’s Immunology Department, one of the lead researchers, said, “Our relationship with our own individual mix of gut bacteria is a huge factor in determining how the food we eat affects us. Especially intriguing is the link between use of artificial sweeteners – through the bacteria in our guts – to a tendency to develop the very disorders they were designed to prevent. This calls for reassessment of today’s massive, unsupervised consumption of these substances.”


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