Global Health News
Artificial Sweeteners May Leave Their Users Glucose-Intolerant
Condensed by L.D. Ramirez (sourced from an Ars Technica article by John Timmer)
Saccharin and other sweeteners alter the bacteria living in our guts.
People who are watching their weight will often opt for a diet soda, reasoning that the fewer calories, the better. But the availability of drinks and foods made with artificial sweeteners like saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame hasn't seemed to help much with our booming obesity levels.
Some researchers might have identified a reason for this: the sweeteners leave their users with elevated blood glucose levels. But they don't seem to act directly on human metabolism. Instead, the effects come through alterations in the bacterial populations that live inside us.
Symbiotic bacteria that live in our digestive tract — termed the 'gut microbiome' - get a chance to digest anything we eat as well, and they can both alter the nutrients our own cells have access to and release chemicals that influence human health.
A large collaboration of researchers from Israel got seven healthy volunteers to start consuming high levels of saccharin (the FDA's recommended maximum daily dose). At the end of a week, four of them had elevated blood glucose levels, despite the fact that saccharin passes through our digestive system without being absorbed.
This led the researchers to conclude that the artificial sweetener may be affecting the volunteers's gut microbiomes instead.
Low insulin sensitivity is known as insulin resistance. The cells do not absorb as much glucose, which might lead to excessively high blood sugar levels. Without management, this can progress to type 2 diabetes.
The human trials were extremely short and had a small population, so they will need a more thorough follow-up. All the same, it wouldn't be a bad idea to start cutting down on artificial sweeteners. In the end, nothing beats all-natural, eh?