A new study indicates that using artificial sweeteners may actually raise blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers in Israel have discovered that zero calorie sweeteners can affect the composition of intestinal microbes called “gut bacteria,” which can alter blood glucose levels.
The study, published in the journal of Nature suggests that long-term use of artificial sweeteners hampers the body’s ability to process natural sugar. Although the study was conducted primarily in mice, there were indications sweeteners would have a similar effect on gut bacteria in people.
According to The Wall Street Journal,
The research shows that zero-calorie sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose and aspartame can alter the population of gut bacteria and trigger unwanted changes such as higher blood glucose levels—a risk factor for diabetes. The provocative findings are likely to stoke the simmering controversy over whether artificial sweeteners help or hinder people’s ability to lose weight and lower the risk of diabetes and obesity.
While industry groups were quick to point out the limitations of the research, Eran Elinav, a physician and immunologist at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science and lead author of the study had a very different point of view. He said, “The scope of our discovery is cause for a public reassessment of the massive and unsupervised use of artificial sweeteners.”
Research regarding gut bacteria has gained more attention in recent years, but scientists still have a long way to go in understanding these vast, microscopic colonies. An article published in Scientific America estimates that, “these microbes outnumber our own cells 10 to one.”
Naik, Gautam. “Research Shows Zero-Calorie Sweeteners Can Raise Blood Sugar” The Wall Street Journal, September 17, 2014.
Wallis, Claudia. “How Gut Bacteria Help Make Us Fat and Thin” Scientific American, June 1, 2014.