Study: Artificial Sweeteners Expose the Population to Diabetes

  • Posted on January 29, 2015 by Pharma Models Blogging Team in Diabetes

Over the years, the scientific community has found more results supporting the health risks of sugar such as cancer development, obesity, and diabetes. While food manufacturers have attempted to curb the problem by offering products with artificial sweeteners, studies continue to show that diet soda and similar synthetic sweets also have hazards.

Science Magazine reports that saccharin and other sweeteners may impact gut microbes negatively and even raise the risk of diabetes. While new research suggests this, there are some critics who claim it contradicts previous studies.

Scientists are continuing to uncover how the microbial environment in the human gut plays a part in both disease development and wellness. Some trials have found that the bacteria between slim and overweight people differ, but an exact link to diabetes and other maladies has not been discovered.

Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel used mouse models to determine the health safety risks of three non-caloric sweeteners called aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin. Three groups of mice were fed these compounds with water while a control group was given sugar.

At around the 11 weeks mark, the mice that had artificial sweeteners showed a significant rise in blood glucose levels after being fed a glucose meal. This is a sign of the first stages of diabetes development. However, when the mice took antibiotics for four weeks, the spike in glucose levels did not occur.

This illustrates that some type of reaction within the gut microbes could stimulate glucose intolerance. Once again, mouse models proved to be useful in the laboratory for illustrating important concepts about diabetes.

In order to compare the results to human subjects, the researchers looked at the reactions of seven people who were given a large dose of saccharin for six days straight. Interestingly, four of the subjects also showed signs of glucose intolerance, which displays that artificial sweeteners may be a serious contributing factor to the spread of diabetes across the nation.

“[The study is] really fascinating work,” Peter Turnbaugh, a microbiologist at Harvard University, wrote in an email to the news source. “There have been some hints in the literature that sweeteners may alter the gut microbiota, but this is by far the most in-depth analysis I’ve seen to date.”

The research was published in Nature in September 2014. The study shows the potential dangers of incorporating non-caloric artificial sweeteners in our foods. Others are not convinced, saying that it is difficult to understand how three very different compounds could lead to the same effect in the gut microbiome.

For instance, Catherine Collins, a dietician from London, feels that comparing the sweetener consumption in mice to humans is not nearly relevant enough. Collins explains that following seven human subjects also does not provide enough evidence.

While there may be discrepancies between studies showing a diabetes risk from artificial sweeteners to those showing no such link, it may be beneficial to avoid both diet sodas and sugary drinks in the fight against this disease.

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