Contrary to popular belief, artificial sweeteners may actually increase the risk of diabetes and obesity, a team of Israeli scientists at the Weizmann Institute said Wednesday.
“Our research findings attest that consuming artificial sweeteners causes the development of the very health problems they’re supposed to prevent,” Dr. Eran Elinav-co-leader of the Weizmann study, which was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday-told Haaretz. “Our findings beg reconsideration of the massive, unregulated use of these substances.”
According to the study, artificial sweeteners-which are a commonly used sugar substitute in “diet” foods and drinks-can actually increase intolerance of glucose (a simple sugar) by altering the bacteria in the digestive tract, even though artificial sweeteners do not contain any glucose.
In an experiment, the Israeli scientists gave a set of mice three commonly used artificial sweeteners approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration that were diluted in water, while giving another set of mice regular sugar that was diluted in water. The scientists found that the mice given the artificial sweeteners developed greater glucose intolerance, and by consequence, the sweeteners can be seen as making someone more susceptible to diabetes and obesity.
When the scientists repeated the experiment with mice that were given antibiotics that killed their digestive bacteria, they found that the mice did not develop glucose intolerance.
“The relationships we have with our personal gut bacteria is significant to understanding how the food we eat affects us, and our tendency to develop conditions such as obesity and diabetes,” said Elinav.