A new study on artificial sweeteners has been published in the scientific journal, Nature.
Since its publication, my News Feed has been full of articles encouraging people to give up artificial sweeteners because of this study. As I’ve always disliked knee-jerk reactions to alarmist news, here are some details to help you clearly understand the study as well as its implications.
The published article contains the results of several experiments on the same topic. Some important details and results of these experiments deserve further explanation.
Researchers gave mice solutions of saccharin (Hermesetas), sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Equal), glucose, sucrose or water. The mice that consumed artificial sweetener solutions developed glucose intolerance. This condition is a difficulty of the body to metabolize glucose adequately. This is often a sign that the individual is at risk for diabetes. Glucose intolerance was the most pronounced with saccharin. For this reason, other experiments were carried out with this sweetener.
Researchers then gave mice food containing a concentration of commercial saccharin or “normal” food. The mice fed with saccharin developed glucose intolerance.
Next, researchers gave the mice antibiotics in order to “reset” their intestinal flora, while maintaining the described diets. After four weeks, none of the mice was glucose intolerant. So the intestinal flora plays a part in glucose metabolism and saccharin modifies the intestinal flora.
Finally, researchers gave seven healthy humans who were not already consuming sweeteners, the maximum acceptable dose of saccharin for six days. In six days, 4 of the 7 participants developed glucose intolerance. An analysis of the intestinal flora of these 4 people as compared to the 3 who suffered no reaction, revealed to the researchers that the intestinal flora of these two groups were very different.
In summary, saccharin would have an impact on the intestinal flora of mice and some humans, which might result in less optimum use of glucose in the affected organisms. So, should we give up sweeteners?