Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are often used by people who are trying to lower their sugar intake. Since sugar has been linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes, these artificial substitutes are quite popular.
They’re considered to be a healthier alternative to satiate sugary cravings, and are used in many diet sodas and low-calorie snack foods. The assumption has been that zero calories equals zero negative impact on health.
Turns out, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Recent studies are showing that these sweet chemicals also lead to metabolic disorders and obesity, albeit by a different route.
Artificial Sweeteners: Treat, or Threat?
Findings from a recent study were presented at the 2018 Experimental Biology conference in San Diego, CA, this past April. Brian Hoffmann, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Marquette University, led the research. He wanted to know why, “Despite the addition of these non-caloric artificial sweeteners to our everyday diets, there has still been a drastic rise in obesity and diabetes.”
His team used a technique called unbiased high-throughput metabolomics. This technique measures biomedical changes in the body after artificial sweeteners were consumed. Their goal was to determine how blood vessel linings were affected by both sugar, and artificial sweeteners.
This study focused on two different sugars (fructose and glucose), and two different zero-calorie sweeteners (acesulfamepotassium). Rats were fed these sweet compounds, and were then assessed after a few weeks. The assessment showed that blood vessel impairment occurred in both sets of rats, but in different ways. As such, the researchers concluded that the observed changes “may be important during the onset and progression of diabetes and obesity”.
Findings showed that both sweetening products changed fat and amino acid levels in the rats’ blood, with artificial sweeteners affecting, and even changing, how their bodies processed fat to get energy. Additionally,acesulfame potassium was shown to build up in the body slowly, over time, with higher concentrations leading to more serious blood vessel damage.
High concentrations of sugar have long been shown to cause damage in the body. Now, these zero-calorie artificial sweeteners are proving to be just as damaging. Their effects on the negative changes in energy and fat metabolism will need to be studied more to clarify findings further.
Ultimately, it appears that both types of sweetening compounds damage the body when consumed in high quantities. The key there seems to be the words “high quantities”. Like anything else, these substances seem to be relatively safe in small quantities. It’s when they’re consumed on a regular basis that damage ensues. For those who are trying to lose weight, it may be best to eliminate both sugar and artificial substitutes as much as possible.