Morning Rounds: Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners have long been touted as a healthier option to sweeten food and beverages instead of sugar, but recent studies are casting doubt on its health benefits and side effects.

“Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners not only promote food intake and weight gain, but can also induce metabolic alterations” said News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light.  “Studies have also demonstrated increased blood glucose level similar to the elevated glucose levels seen in patients with diabetes.”

Light said artificial sweeteners are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as food additives, and are generally recognized as safe.  There are currently seven artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States: acesulfame K, aspartame, luo han guo fruit extract, neotame, saccharin, stevia, and sucralose.

“While sweeteners that have passed FDA testing are deemed safe for consumption, the amount of artificial sweetener consumed, the type, and the health of the consumer are all contributing factors that need to be taken into consideration when deciding to use artificial sweeteners,” said Light.

Light said several studies have linked artificial sweeteners to:

  1. Weight gain may result.  Artificial sweetener may trick your body into thinking it needs more energy (energy=calories).
  2. Increased desire for sweeter foods.
  3. Artificial sweeteners induce blood sugar disturbances.
  4. Decrease “good gut bacteria” and immune responses. Artificial sweeteners decrease diversity of gut bacteria leading to an imbalance resulting in poor digestion, reduced immune responses, inflammation, glucose intolerance, and GI discomfort.

They are not found in nature.

Light said while there are concerns about artificial sweeteners, the FDA has not deemed them carcinogenic.