Will This New Research Change Your Mind About Artificial Sweetener?

Artificially sweetened food and drinks, the food industry’s insurance product for sugar-haters and diabetics, have always been a grey area in terms of long-term health for consumers.

From rotting your teeth like a crack addict to tricking more than just your tastebuds, there’s a lot of literature that has found that sweeteners can be harmful to the body.

After all, whether it’s staring at the computer screen, holding the phone to your ear or gulping copious amounts of a sweetened diet drink, too much of anything artificial can’t be good for you, right?

Sweeteners Just Like a Glass of Water

Well, new research — from the University of Adelaide in Australia and published in December’s Diabetes Care Journal — has found that drinking sweeteners is just like drinking a glass of water as it has no effect on the gut. At least that was the case for the ten young, healthy, non-overweight males used in the study. All subjects were aged around 30-years-old.

“The scientific debate centers on whether artificial sweeteners have a negative impact on our bodies, such as leading to the storage of fat. There are also questions about whether they have a beneficial impact, such as producing responses that signal fullness to the brain, or if they are inert and produce no impact,” says senior author Associate Professor Chris Rayner.

Each of the study’s subjects was required to consume either 240mL water alone or sweetened with either 52 milligrams of sucralose (Splenda), 200 milligrams of AceK (Sunett or Sweet One), or 46 milligrams of sucralose plus 26 milligrams AceK. Ten minutes later, each subject drank 75 grams of glucose and had their gut responses measured accordingly.

The paper concludes that both sweeteners (sucralose and AceK), either alone or in combination, have no short-term effect on gastric emptying, GLP-1 or glycemic responses after glucose is consumed by healthy humans; in other words, no effects on the gut.

However, the study’s authors are the first to warn that this is not evidence to say those sweeteners are safe to drink, particularly in the long term.

“This is a controversial area because there’s a lot of conflicting research into artificial sweeteners,” said Rayner. “The fact is, the human studies have been unclear as to whether artificial sweeteners have a positive or negative effect, and this is why we’re keen to better understand what’s happening in our bodies.”

We Should Be Focusing on the Long-Term

While short-term studies (albeit small studies) have often found nil significant ill-effects of sweetener use, research into long-term consumption is where the real answers hide.

In the end, diet-drink faithfuls are not consuming them temporarily; they’re likely to be customers for life.

There have been myriad studies that find increased health risks with longer consumption of sweeteners. However these have been observational studies which only show a link, rather than proving cause and effect. This is why a conclusive statement about the health impact of sweeteners continues to elude us.

Co-author of the study Dr. Richard Young says:

Those [observational] studies indicate that artificial sweeteners may interact with the gut in the longer term, but so far no-one’s managed to determine the actual mechanisms through which these sweeteners act.

So far it appears that artificial sweeteners have limited impact in the short term, but in people in a pre-diabetic or diabetic state, who are more likely to be regularly high users of artificial sweeteners, it might be a different story altogether.

I fear that when future clinical trials are finalised, the outcomes and findings will be anything but sweet for long-term artificial sweetener consumers.

What do you choose to use? Sweetener or sugar?

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

109 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 months ago

thanks for the article.

Kyle N.
Kyle N.2 years ago

They should stop making artificial sweeteners. I get very sick from any amount of sucralose.

Syd H.
Syd H.2 years ago

And another reason to be absolutely sure of what you are consuming, much of the honey in the world and especially the US is laundered from China with all the resulting banned pesticides and treatments, and may not even be honey at all but rather just corn syrup.

Get to know your farmer. If the price is too good to be true, there is a reason...

Syd H.
Syd H.2 years ago

Uh, no... :(

Bleh! There's far more such as headaches, and body aches, liver damage, and even appetite. Then there is all the artificial sweeteners added to other foods such as chewing gums & medicines even. They become nearly impossible to avoid. :(

Good enough as it's part of what forced me away from processed foods and the corporations which produced them that I would rather not support including the political influence they exert.



Alicia Coria
Alicia C.2 years ago

For those with diabetes, try stevia, the leaves, if you can find them. I read somewhere that they have some components that may help fighting the desease.

Alicia Coria
Alicia C.2 years ago

If you read " ten young, healthy, non-overweight males used in the study", you can't take this seriously.
I’m not a scientist, but I believe you need a much larger group to consider the results, at least, statistically.
So, I still believe sweeteners aren’t like water.. and this study means nothing to me, except maybe, a waste of the time I spent reading it.

Rebecca Powell
Rebecca Powell2 years ago

We need more long term studies and it's amazing what the results of some of them are saying. Maybe if we used common sense we wouldn't be saying OH NO in ten or twenty years.

Donna Ferguson
Donna F.2 years ago

ty

Michael Lee
Michael Lee2 years ago

I'll pay attention when the FDA release information to the effect that long term usage is deleterious to your health. If you want to stay healthy, avoid all refined carbohydrates,and remember - balance, variety and moderation in your intake of food together with physical activity.
If more Americans paid attention, your Nation's health bill would not place such a drain on the economy.
The secret to old age is dying young as late as possible.....

Jandrel Andrel
i Andrel2 years ago

I was glad to read this as I was told artificial sweeteners do spike blood sugar