Artificial sweeteners are used by millions of people as a healthier substitute for sugar, aimed at preventing diabetes. These synthetic alternatives to sugar can taste up to 20,000 times sweeter while providing no calories since our body cannot digest them. Still, recent research came to shake the grounds on their actual beneficial contribution towards diabetes prevention.
A group of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, decided to examine the relationship between sweetener intake and weight gain tendencies leading to diabetes. They added one of three commonly used sweeteners – saccharin, sucralose or aspartame – to the drinking water of healthy young mice. The dose of sweetener was the equivalent to the maximum acceptable daily intake in humans, as set by the FDA.
After 11 weeks, the researchers tested all the rodents’ glucose tolerance levels. Eran Segal, one of the main researchers of the study observed that: “the mice consuming the sweeteners, showed significant glucose intolerance at levels comparable to a metabolic disease.”
In order to find out whether these results applied to humans as well, the team asked seven healthy people, who don’t normally consume sweeteners, to consume the FDA’s maximum daily allowance of saccharin. By day five, four of the seven people had a significant decrease in their glucose tolerance, while three showed no change.
Eran Elinav, one of the study’s co-ordinators, conclude that: “we are by no means thinking that based on this study we could deduce direct recommendations for artificial-sweetener consumption. We want to be very cautious about that. But the fact that we could induce glucose intolerance at a level that corresponds to a metabolic disease in five days should at the very least be a call for government agencies to reassess the unsupervised use of artificial sweeteners.”
While the International Sweeteners Association (ISA) strongly disagrees with the claims made in the study, the European Food Safety Authority stated that they will consider in due course whether the paper should be brought to the attention of its review panel of experts.
(Source: NewScientist )