Reducing sugar intake is one of the steps that can be taken as part of a weight loss regime; however, replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners may not be the solution. Making the change will certainly help to reduce calorie intake, but it may not necessarily help to prevent diabetes or combat obesity.
Use of artificial sweeteners has recently been linked with the development of diabetes and obesity. A study conducted by Brian Hoffmann, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Marquette University and his team has shown intake of artificial sweeteners can cause changes to the lining of the blood vessels which have negative effects linked to obesity and diabetes.
For the experiment, groups of rats were fed a diet high in glucose or fructose, while others were fed a diet with high levels of artificial sweeteners. The researchers used unbiased high-throughput metabolomics to track biochemical changes in the body and investigated the impact of sugar and artificial sweetener consumption on vascular health, specifically looking at changes to the lining of the blood vessels.
After three weeks on the high sugar/sweetener diets, negative changes were observed in both groups of rats, and in both cases those negative effects were linked to the development of obesity and diabetes.
The human body is able to deal with sugar, but over time, a high intake of sugar can trigger the onset of diabetes as bodily systems that process sugar become overloaded and break down. To ensure this does not happen, sugar should be consumed in moderation. However, simply replacing sugar with artificial sweetener is not the answer.
The study showed that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame potassium can result in changes to fat and energy metabolism. The researchers also noted that acesulfame potassium appeared to accumulate in the blood, and the higher the level, the more harmful the effect was on cells lining the blood vessels.
The study does not provide concrete evidence that the use of artificial sweeteners causes obesity or diabetes, and neither that the use of artificial sweeteners would be worse than a high sugar intake, but the results of the study do suggest that consumption of artificial sweeteners can have negative consequences.
The results of the study were presented at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society at the Experimental Biology 2018 meeting in San Diego last month.
Image Source: Steve Snodgrass – Flickr: Sugar Dish, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.