Some artificial sweeteners might cause glucose intolerance
In studies with mice, scientists have found that saccharin, aspartame and sucralose cause significant changes to the microorganisms in the gut, causing the body to develop an intolerance to glucose — a condition that can lead to diabetes.
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Digested from starch or even table sugar, glucose is a simple sugar used as fuel by cells. Glucose concentrations in the bloodstream are regulated by insulin. Moderate amounts of starch and sugars can support a healthy population of gut microorganisms, which affect the body in myriad ways.
Sugar substitutes are designed to satisfy the sweet tooth while avoiding tooth decay, obesity and other problems, including high blood-sugar levels. However, some artificial sweeteners can alter the composition of gut organisms, leading to imbalances that induce high levels of glucose in the bloodstream, according to the study.
• Mice fed normal diets suffered high blood- glucose levels after receiving fecal transplants from mice fed artificial sweeteners.
• Antibiotics were used to eliminate gut flora in mice fed artificial sweeteners. Blood- glucose levels returned to normal.
• Artificial sweeteners may affect people in the same way. Blood-glucose levels rose in four of seven people whose normal diets were supplemented with commercial saccharin.
TESTING THE FINDINGS
Fed saccharin in water
MOUSE BLOOD-GLUCOSE LEVELS
Fed glucose in water
Minutes after ingestion
(mg dl -1 )