Fake Sugar Paving the Road to Diabetes?
Artificial sweeteners, put forth as a panacea for weight loss and diabetes prevention, may instead spur our chances of developing glucose intolerance and metabolic disease by altering the workings of gut microbiota – the large group of bacteria in our intestines, according to an interesting and much-discussed study.
The findings are published in the journal Nature.
Glucose intolerance, often believed to result when the body cannot cope with large amounts of sugar in the diet, is the first step toward metabolic syndrome and adult-onset diabetes, the researchers note.
The research, conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science and other research facilities in Israel, is in an early phase, and the investigators have not yet accounted for how the sweeteners affect the bacteria.
The investigators directly tested the impact of only saccharin in an uncontrolled study using seven healthy adults over the period of one week. The sweetener was consumed at the top-most level recommended by the FDA (about 120 mg per day).
The study results seem to suggest that this sweetener may impact glucose tolerance in some people, based on the workings of their gut bacteria. Prior studies on the consequences of using artificial sweeteners have yielded contradictory conclusions.
A larger study that also includes a control group (and also the most widely used artificial sweeteners) would help determine more conclusively if these results hold up and if we need to rethink our relationship with sugar substitutes.