Artificial sweeteners: Is it time to find a new substitute?

By Kalyn Weber Oct 15, 2014

You consider yourself a bit of a health freak. You roll your eyes as you watch your coworker grab another soda from the office vending machine. Please. Doesn’t he know what 55 grams of pure sugar will do to his waistline? Not so fast, oh healthy one. Put down your zero-calorie sports drink and listen up. New research suggests that diet drinks, once endorsed for promoting weight loss, may actually have the opposite effect. Read more to learn if you should ditch the artificial sweeteners.artificial_sweeteners_image_sized

 The study, in a nutshell

 The study responsible for all of the buzz around artificial sweeteners involved a team of researchers and a bunch of mice. The mice all drank either plain water, water with regular sugar (sucrose), or water with one of three artificial sweeteners (saccharin, sucralose and aspartame). The mice that drank any of the artificial sweeteners experienced significantly higher blood sugar spikes than those that drank the regular water… OR the sugar water.  It gets more surprising. The mice drinking the artificial sweeteners actually showed signs of glucose intolerance – a condition that indicates metabolic disorder and is often a warning sign for diabetes.

 What are artificial sweeteners?

 Artificial sweeteners are products used instead of table sugar (sucrose) to sweeten foods and beverages. We like them because they contain fewer calories. Food manufacturers like them because they are sweeter than regular sugar, so smaller amounts are needed to result in the same level of sweetness.

 Here’s a list of common artificial sweeteners you might see on an ingredients label:

  • Aspartame
  • Saccharine
  • Sucralose
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Neotame
  • Cyclamate

 Here’s a refresher on the history of artificial sweeteners. (No, they probably don’t cause cancer).

 Can you stomach it?

 No, you can’t actually. Your body cannot absorb or digest artificial sweeteners. That’s why we always thought we were in the clear consuming them. This new study suggests that these products may be altering the bacteria in our gut. Researchers hypothesize that this microbial change could actually be what’s causing the glucose intolerance.

 What does it all mean?

 Technically, nothing yet. It is compelling research but more studies need to be done (on humans) before we can say anything with certainty. The fact that diet drinks are causing adverse effects in mice is a story we’ve heard before (remember the pink sugar packet cancer scare?) We need more evidence.

 That being said… perhaps it’s time for you to conduct your own experiment. Test your glucose and 20+ other biomarkers of health with InsideTracker. See what effect your diet and lifestyle have on your body’s inner chemistry by trying out our new Ultimate Plan. View our demo today to learn more!

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