By Jenny Gong
Splenda. Truvia. Sweet’N Low. These companies are famous for making artificial sweeteners that are healthy alternatives to sugar. Every year, millions of Americans consume about 130 pounds of sugar per year.
Artificial sweeteners aim to change that. Artificial sweeteners are synthetic substitutes for sugar that are typically made from natural substances. Many view them as healthy alternatives; they combat weight gain as they add virtually no calories to your diet and they can prevent diabetes and generally do not raise blood sugar levels.
Despite these health benefits, a new study reveals that these artificial sweeteners may be doing more harm than good. Dr. Elinav and his team found that when they fed mice these artificial sweeteners for a prolonged period of time, the mice developed intolerance to glucose.
Glucose intolerance is a condition where a body is unable to digest large amounts of sugar and can be a precursor to a more serious disease, type 2 diabetes. The research team found that this change in glucose metabolism was actually caused by a change in gut bacteria. When they tested this in humans that normally did not ingest artificial sweeteners, the patients began to show signs of glucose intolerance as well as a changed microbiome. Thankfully, researchers were able to reverse the glucose intolerance in both humans and mice through administration of antibiotics.
While there is still much more research to be done, the study gives a warning as to the effects of artificial sweeteners. However, not all artificial sweeteners seem to have this effect; sweeteners like Splenda contain only 13% of natural sweetener substances, but those that have higher percentages of natural substances tend to be healthier.
In the end, in a very ironic twist of fate, the very things that can prevent one type of diabetes may actually lead to the other type.
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