Increased awareness of the health consequences of eating too much sugar has fueled a dramatic uptick in the consumption of zero-calorie artificial sweeteners in recent decades. However, new research finds sugar replacements can also cause health changes that are linked with diabetes and obesity, suggesting that switching from regular to diet soda may be a case of ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire.’
Artificial sweeteners are one of the most common food additives worldwide, frequently consumed in diet and zero-calorie sodas and other products. While some previous studies have linked artificial sweeteners with negative health consequences, earlier research has been mixed and raised questions about potential bias related to study sponsorship.
Using artificial sweeteners may actually throw off the body’s ability to monitor how many calories we consume. Rats fed an artificially sweetened diet tend to overeat when given naturally sweetened high-calorie food compared with rats that had never consumed artificial sweeteners.
This new study is the largest examination to date that tracks biochemical changes in the body–using an approach known as unbiased high-throughput metabolomics–after consumption of sugar or sugar substitutes. Researchers also looked at impacts on vascular health by studying how the substances affect the lining of blood vessels. The studies were conducted in rats and cell cultures.
Previous studies have shown that regular consumption of artificial, low-calorie sweeteners may actually cause people to gain more weight than similar consumption of sugar. According to one study conducted by researchers from Purdue University and published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience found that rats given saccharin actually gained more weight than the rats in the sugar group.