Artificial sweeteners – More science is in

Category: Blog

Doctors are busy trying to make or not make a connection between the use of artificial sweeteners and their impact on obesity and inflammation.

The questions doctors are looking to answer are:

  • Do artificial sweeteners prevent obesity?
  • Cause obesity?
  • Cause gut inflammation which can cause obesity?
  • Or cause other health concerns?

In a recent paper doctors acknowledge that one of the key questions facing doctors is whether low calorie sweeteners are indeed a beneficial strategy for weight management and prevention of obesity. Unfortunately science does not provide a clear answer. Further, the testing to determine this is not adequate.1


But other researchers say the evidence is clear – sweeteners make you obese

Artificial sweeteners, promoted as aids to weight loss and diabetes prevention, could actually hasten the development of glucose intolerance and metabolic disease; and they do it in a surprising way: by changing the composition and function of the gut microbiota – the substantial population of bacteria residing in our intestines. Further, the widespread use of artificial sweeteners in drinks and food may be contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemic that is sweeping much of the world.2

In another paper almost the same words are used: “Obesity is associated with altered gut microbiota and low-grade inflammation. Both dietary habits and food composition contribute to the onset of such diseases. Emulsifiers, compounds commonly used in a variety of foods, were shown to induce body weight gain, low-grade inflammation and metabolic disorders. These dietary compounds promote gut microbiota alteration and gut barrier dysfunction leading to negative metabolic alterations.”3

This research agrees in kind with another published paper that says Emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods to aid texture and extend shelf life, can alter the gut microbiota composition and localization to induce intestinal inflammation that promotes the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome, new research shows.

The research, published  Nature, was led by Georgia State University Institute for Biomedical Sciences’ researchers Drs. Benoit Chassaing and Andrew T. Gewirtz, and included contributions from Emory University, Cornell University and Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

In other research, doctors say one of the active ingredients in a popular artificial sweetener sucralose could also have the potential to limit the impact of therapeutic drugs, reduce the number and balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut and alter hormone secretion. The authors of the study conclude that a careful reassessment of safety is needed regarding the use of sucralose by the general population, particularly special populations such as children, elderly, nursing mothers, persons with diabetes, cancer patients, and persons taking multiple medications. 5

Trickery in the brain makes you obese

Doctors found that eating low-calorie sweetened products – especially when hungry or exhausted – may lead to a higher likelihood of seeking high calorie alternatives later, due to a newly discovered signal in the brain.

The results of the study imply that it is hard to fool the brain by providing it with ‘energyless’ sweet flavors. Our pleasure in consuming sweet solutions is driven to a great extent by the amount of energy it provides: greater reward in the brain is attributed to sugars compared to artificial sweeteners. The brain could not be fooled that artificial sweeteners are just like sugar! The brain wants the sugar.6

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Magaziner Center Doctors


1. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota.
Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, Zilberman-Schapira G, Thaiss CA, Maza O, Israeli D, Zmora N, Gilad S, Weinberger A, Kuperman Y, Harmelin A, Kolodkin-Gal I, Shapiro H, Halpern Z, Segal E, Elinav E.
Nature. 2014 Oct 9;514(7521):181-6. doi: 10.1038/nature13793. Epub 2014 Sep 17.
2. Popular Artificial Sweetener Not So Sweet
3. Susan S. Schiffman, Kristina I. Rother (2013) Sucralose, A Synthetic Organochlorine Sweetener: Overview Of Biological Issues, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, Vol. 16, Iss. 7
4. Chassaing, B., Koren, O., Goodrich, J., Poole, A., Srinivasan, S., Ley, R., & Gewirtz, A. (2015). Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome Nature DOI:10.1038/nature14232
6. The brain cannot be fooled by artificial sweeteners – leading to a higher likelihood of sugar consumption later. 20 September 2013 Wiley