Zero-Calorie Sweeteners Linked to Dramatic Increase in Diabetes and Obesity

Zero-Calorie Sweeteners Linked to Diabetes and Obesity

Increased awareness of the health consequences of eating too much sugar has fueled a dramatic uptick in the consumption of zero-calorie artificial sweeteners in recent decades. However, new research finds sugar replacements can also cause health changes that are linked with diabetes and obesity, suggesting that switching from regular to diet soda may be a case of ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire.’

Artificial sweeteners are one of the most common food additives worldwide, frequently consumed in diet and zero-calorie sodas and other products. While some previous studies have linked artificial sweeteners with negative health consequences, earlier research has been mixed and raised questions about potential bias related to study sponsorship.

This new study is the largest examination to date that tracks biochemical changes in the body–using an approach known as unbiased high-throughput metabolomics–after consumption of sugar or sugar substitutes. Researchers also looked at impacts on vascular health by studying how the substances affect the lining of blood vessels. The studies were conducted in rats and cell cultures.

“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 Hoffmann, PhD, assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Marquette University. “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.”

Hoffmann will present the research at the American Physiological Society annual meeting during the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting, held April 21-25 in San Diego.

The team fed different groups of rats diets high in glucose or fructose (kinds of sugar), or aspartame or acesulfame potassium (common zero-calorie artificial sweeteners). After three weeks, the researchers saw significant differences in the concentrations of biochemicals, fats and amino acids in blood samples.

The results suggest artificial sweeteners change how the body processes fat and gets its energy. In addition, they found acesulfame potassium seemed to accumulate in the blood, with higher concentrations having a more harmful effect on the cells that line blood vessels.

“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.”

So, which is worse, sugar or artificial sweeteners? Researchers cautioned that the results do not provide a clear answer and the question warrants further study. It is well known that high dietary sugar is linked to negative health outcomes and the study suggests artificial sweeteners do, too.

“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.”

Brian Hoffmann will present this research on Sunday, April 22, from 10 a.m.-noon in the San Diego Convention Center Exhibit Hall (poster A322) (abstract). Contact the media team for more information or to obtain a free press pass to attend the meeting.

14 Comments on "Zero-Calorie Sweeteners Linked to Dramatic Increase in Diabetes and Obesity"

  1. My husband had a active brain bleed because of them.

  2. Marcus Gomez | April 22, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Reply

    Paid for by the sugar and corn industries

    • I am trying a liytle deeper too. How did you find out this was paid for by sugar and corn industries? Where can I see exactly who paid and how much? Thank you!

      • It doesn’t seem to be. It is paid for by our taxes and a few universities.

        From the source at the bottom:
        Support or Funding InformationSupport for this project has been provided by the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (K01-DK105043 to BRH) and the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, USA.

  3. Stephanie Murray | April 22, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Reply

    The photo to this article is misleading. The researchers only tested aspartame and acesulfame potassium. The photo shows truvia and stevia, sweeteners that we’re not mentioned in the study.

  4. Lost 57 pounds changing to zero sweeteners

  5. Stevia, which is featured in your photo, happens to be a zero-calorie sweetener because it’s an herb. It isn’t artificial and had absolutely nothing to do with the studies you mention. Maybe fact-check these things before you publish them?

  6. What makes no sense to me is that sugar only have 15 calories per teaspoon. So even if I put 4 tablespoons of sugar in my coffee, I’ve only consumed 180 calories. Of course that doesn’t include any calories from anything such as milk. But still, 180 calories for 4 tablespoons of sugar isn’t bad. Plus artificial sweeteners make me hungry.

  7. Stevia, or “Sweet Leaf”, not in the study but you show it in the pile. Shame. It is not artificial but comes from a leaf which is highly sweet – a leaf which is not a chemical creation, a natural leaf from a plant. Nothing else added. We have known for years of the man-created chemical sweetners and their affects on the body. Do a study on sweet leaf alone, which is touted as no harm to body and no glycemic value for the body to think it is sugar. You have wasted our time in reading this article and the money given to you with you and your group agenda.

  8. Giving a tiny little rat any substance in amounts that equal 100 times it’s body weight will cause a negative impact and result. No human is every going to consume 100 cans of diet Coke a day so these tests are so flawed. Plus what other types of health issues or diseases did that rats have? Rats by nature are very sickly creatures with a very low life expectancy. I’ve tested my blood sugar before and after consuming an artificially sweetened beverage and so no increase in blood sugar. It’s about calories in calories out and people are always looking for other answers because no one wants to control pollution sizes and calories. It’s basic math. If you drink regular soda over diet soda while eating the same amount of calories from food the regular soda containing excess sugar would cause the weight gain because of the extra calories. It’s really not that hard to figure out.

  9. Misleading article title and picture. Educate yourself please.
    “Zero-Calorie Sweeteners Linked to Dramatic Increase in Diabetes and Obesity”

    The study showed it wasn’t zero calorie, but ARTIFICIAL sweeteners. Stevia is absolutely NOT artificial and does not cause these health problems. The author is spreading fake news based on her lack of fact checking and blatant ignorance.

  10. I see some comments mention that stevia is a plant and not artificial. I understand that but the problem with any type of sweeteners is that when consumed the body reacts the same way, whether is sugar or a zero calorie plant. The brain still sees it as sugary. The difference between sugar and zero calorie is pretty much calorie difference. If either is consumed in high amounts it leads to health problems because the body reacts similar to them.

  11. I believe, after reading these posts, and the article, that the point is that sugar is tied in with obesity. Drinking sweet orange juice first thing in the morning is bad, because it puts the body into fat-storing mode, rather than fat-burning mode. This means that all calories consumed in this mode are converted to fats rather than burnt off; this of course, leads to weight gain and obesity, which causes many other problems. I believe this might be what Andrea is getting at: the body reacts to sweetness, not any particular sweetener. It perhaps feels: “Oh good, something sweet! Let’s store this up as fat so we can burn it off later when there’s a shortage of calories!” The problem is, there is no “later” as we continue to have more than enough (calories) to eat, and we become fatter and fatter. Please reply as to my comments accuracy, if anyone has information that supports it. The author is not spreading “fake” news; that is the politicians’ domain!

  12. As usual the research does not produce any clear answers. Its another purported scientist wasting his students’ time and removing rats, guinea pigs or monkeys from existence in a fatuous piece of poorly constructed research telling us less than nothing.

    Not even a safe dose is mentioned. Its only the torrent of paper money swilling around the universities that produces this nonsense to fill science magazines. More selectivity please.

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