More Scrutiny for Artificial Sweeteners

Recently Juvenon explored sugar and all its disguises (over 56 aliases for sugar!) that can be found on food and drink labels in our Healthy Tips column.  However, this doesn’t mean that it’s wise to swap out real sugar for artificial sweeteners in the name of health.

One recent animal study, with a very small follow-up in humans, suggests that artificial sweeteners may promote glucose intolerance – and therefore diabetes – by changing the bacterial mix in the gut. Reported in the Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter and published in the journal Nature, the findings have put some experts at odds; some believing that artificial sweeteners should be avoided, while other say it’s non issue.

“This is a hard study to evaluate,” stated Susan B. Roberts, PhD, Tufts professor of nutrition and founder of the online iDiet weight loss program in the newsletter. “On the one hand, the results are fairly clear: Mice fed artificial sweeteners at a level equivalent to the maximum daily recommended amount for humans had impaired glucose tolerance, and that seemed to be due to metabolic effects resulting from a different balance of bacteria living in the large intestine. I realize that sounds unlikely, but in fact intestinal bacteria have increasingly been shown to have quite powerful effects throughout the body.”

“Clearly, not all artificial sweeteners will have the same effects,” says Roberts, “since the effect of one non-digestible chemical on the intestinal florae will not be the same as the effect of a different chemical – and for the most part the sweeteners on the market all have really different chemical compositions. However, the specter has been raised that artificial sweeteners need more scrutiny, and clearly more research is needed on all the sweeteners existing in the marketplace today.”

In a nutshell, Roberts believes the new research indicates that people should stay away from saccharin until further study has been done. Where do you stand on the use of artificial sweeteners?