APR 24, 2018 8:24 AM PDT

Artificial Sweeteners and Obesity are Connected

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Scientists have been studying the links between artificial sweeteners and obesity and diabetes for some time, but a solid cause-and-effect relationship had not been established. Now a large study has been done by investigators at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Marquette University to look at how artificial sweeteners affect biomarkers. The results added evidence to the hypothesis that the development of diabetes and obesity is sometimes related to the consumption of synthetic sugars and sweeteners. While a cause-and-effect relationship still has not been found, the researchers stress moderation when using artificial sugars.

"Despite the addition of these non-caloric artificial sweeteners to our everyday diets, there has still been a drastic rise in obesity and diabetes," said lead researcher Brian Hoffman. "In our studies, both sugar and artificial sweeteners seem to exhibit negative effects linked to obesity and diabetes, albeit through very different mechanisms from each other." The work was presented at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society.

Artificial sweeteners are among the most commonly used food additives. The researchers wanted to see how they were impacting the health of blood vessels and their linings. 

For this work, rats were fed diets that were high in two forms of sugar - glucose and fructose, or zero-calorie artificial sweeteners - aspartame or acesulfame potassium. The scientists assessed concentrations of fats, amino acids, and biochemicals in the blood of the animals after consumption.
 
The researchers observed that artificial sweeteners change how the animals process fat, and how they get energy from the synthetic sweet stuff. It was also found that acesulfame potassium can build up in the blood, harming the lining of blood vessels in the process.

"We observed that in moderation, your body has the machinery to handle sugar; it is when the system is overloaded over a long period of time that this machinery breaks down," Hoffmann said. "We also observed that replacing these sugars with non-caloric artificial sweeteners leads to negative changes in fat and energy metabolism."

Further research will be needed to fully understand this link, and to find out if artificial sweeteners have to be avoided.

Moderation is key in sugar and artificial sweetener consumption / Image credit: Pixabay

"It is not as simple as 'stop using artificial sweeteners' being the key to solving overall health outcomes related to diabetes and obesity," Hoffmann added. "If you chronically consume these foreign substances [as with sugar] the risk of negative health outcomes increases. As with other dietary components, I like to tell people moderation is the key if one finds it hard to completely cut something out of their diet."

Aisling Pigott, is a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association urged caution when interpreting the study. He noted that animal models used in the work might not reflect human physiology accurately, but told Newsweek that moderation in the use of sweets is indeed key to good health.

"We do need to be aware that overuse or excessive use of any products-including sugar or sweeteners - is not beneficial to health," Pigott said. "In addition, high levels of sweetener intake will still mean we are craving and desiring sugary foods without any 'energy intake,' and there are question marks about the impact of this on satiety."

 

Sources: Science Daily, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Experimental Biology 2018, Newsweek

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 15, 2020
Cardiology
Dopamine Could Cause Heart Arrhythmia After Heart Failure
SEP 15, 2020
Dopamine Could Cause Heart Arrhythmia After Heart Failure
Everyone knows that friend with a tattoo of a molecule of dopamine. Usually associated with the pleasure response, it is ...
OCT 21, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Extracellular Vesicles Help Heart Cells Survive a Heart Attack
OCT 21, 2020
Extracellular Vesicles Help Heart Cells Survive a Heart Attack
During a heart attack, blood flow is blocked and cells lose oxygen and begin to die. Scientists are developing many new ...
NOV 05, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Digging DEEP into Metabolomic Space
NOV 05, 2020
Digging DEEP into Metabolomic Space
Metabolomics is an umbrella term encompassing lipidomics and the study of smaller polar metabolites.  As such, more ...
OCT 29, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
How Does the Immune System Handle the Microbiome?
OCT 29, 2020
How Does the Immune System Handle the Microbiome?
The human body plays host to trillions of microbes, and many of them live in our gastrointestinal tract; these microorga ...
NOV 06, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
The Structure of Proton-Activated Chloride Channels Is Revealed
NOV 06, 2020
The Structure of Proton-Activated Chloride Channels Is Revealed
Scientists have generated structural images of a newly-described class of ion channels that help maintain the balance of ...
NOV 19, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Different View of Chromosomes
NOV 19, 2020
A Different View of Chromosomes
Many of us are familiar with typical diagrams of a chromosome, which is usually drawn like a stubby X. While that pictur ...
Loading Comments...