Monday, September 22, 2014

Could Artificial Sweeteners Promote Diabetes and Obesity?

For those who are diabetic or dieting, you may think artificial sweeteners are your best friend.

They allow you to get the taste of sugar from foods and beverages without the elevated blood sugar levels or calories. But a new study suggests this may not be the case; artificial sweeteners could actually promote obesity and diabetes.

The research team, including Eran Elinav of the Department of Immunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, recently published their findings in the journal Nature.

Because artificial sweeteners are low calorie and do not contain carbohydrates, they are often recommended to help with weight loss or to treat or prevent metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes.

However, Elinav and colleagues note that, although some studies support such recommendations, others have indicated that artificial sweeteners actually increase weight gain and raise the risk of metabolic disorders. A study from the Washington University School of Medicine published last year claimed the artificial sweetener sucralose is linked to increased glucose and insulin levels.

“Despite the controversial data, the FDA approved six NAS (non-caloric artificial sweetener) products for use in the US,” the researchers note. These are saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, advantame, neotame and acesulfame potassium.

In this latest study, the team investigated how artificial sweeteners affected the metabolism of mice. For 11 weeks, some mice were supplied with drinking water supplemented with an artificial sweetener – either saccharin, sucralose or aspartame – and glucose, while others drank just water alone or water containing only sugar.

The team found that the mice that drank the water containing glucose and an artificial sweetener developed glucose intolerance – elevated blood sugar levels, whereas the mice that drank water alone or water containing only sugar did not.

They found that this effect was brought on by interferences in gut bacteria. “Notably,” the researchers say, “several of the bacterial taxa that changed following NAS consumption were previously associated with type 2 diabetes in humans.”

Elinav and colleagues then assessed the effect of long-term consumption of artificial sweeteners and increased weight, increased waist-to-hip ratio (an indicator of abdominal obesity), higher fasting blood glucose levels and increased glycosylated hemoglobin levels.

The researchers note that artificial sweeteners were widely introduced into our diets to help reduce caloric intake and normalize blood glucose levels. But they say these findings indicate that they may be having the opposite effect.

Until recently, the arguments against NAS were based on them being potential carcinogens. They have also been implicated in food sensitivity and allergic reactions for a large percentage of the population. However, most people have chosen to use these products because the perceived benefit was greater than the potential risk. Now the evidence indicates there is no benefit from these products, only health risks.

The food industry is beginning to react to public complaints. Yogurt companies have started removing NAS from their products. Hopefully, other companies will follow suit. However, the momentum can only be built from public pressure. I wonder will we stand up and demand that these artificial chemicals be removed from our food. Until the average American understands that artificial sweeteners are making them fatter rather than skinny, don’t expect any real change.

If the carcinogenic potential of these drugs didn’t keep you from using them, this should. You will not lose weight and you will not look better by using NAS. You are just rushing headlong toward obesity and diabetes.

Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH) -Thursday, September 18, 2014

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