Could the calorie-free sweetener you rely on to replace sugar in your diet actually cause weight gain instead of the expected weight loss?
The answer may be yes, according to a new study.
Artificial sweeteners are not without risk, "said Brian Hoffmann, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Wisconsin Medical College and Marquette University, and a lead author of the study." They are a highly controversial topic when it comes to health and nutrition goes … but they are so prevalent in society that we owe it to ourselves to try to figure out what is actually going on. "
Hoffmann presented his new research Sunday at the annual Experimental Biology Meeting in San With rats and human cell cultures, his team identified a number of routes that combine artificial sweeteners with metabolic changes at the genetic level that could lead to diabetes and obesity.The researchers found that three weeks exposure to aspartame and acesulfame potassium ̵
"We then took these particular sweeteners and put them on endothelial cells – the cells that line the blood vessels and were exposed to them in the body – and we recognized pronounced dysfunction, suggesting why sweeteners and diet sodas were having potential Cardiovascular problems, "he added.
Perhaps the most surprising thing, according to Hoffmann, was that these metabolic changes did not occur in the presence of natural sugars such as glucose and fructose. This suggests that artificial sweeteners, through a completely different mechanism than natural sugars, could contribute to metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity.
Artificial sweeteners seem to contribute to metabolic disorders by altering the activity of certain genes responsible for degradation, alter macromolecules such as fats and proteins, Hoffmann said. This is different from normal sugars, which contribute to cardiovascular disease through insulin resistance and damage the cells in the blood vessels of the body.
"People generally do not consume nutritious sweeteners that they believe are a healthy choice," said researcher Meghan Azad of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, who was not involved in the new study.
"This is especially important in view of the widespread and increasing consumption of artificial sweeteners in the general population and the US increasing use of artificial sweeteners in our food supply," said Azad, who has written an article in which a number of studies on possible Disadvantages of artificial sweeteners on weight and health has been studied.
According to Azad, over 40% of adult Americans consume no-cal sweeteners on a daily basis, and studies measuring sweeteners in blood and urine show that many people who do not use artificial sweeteners are unkno [Itistherecentattackintheongoingdebateonartificialsweetenersandtheirhealtheffects-adebatethatbeganasoneofourfavoritefoodssugarbecameacidicintermsofhealth
Need for a Sugar Substitute
How can something as good as sugar be bad for us?
In fact, it's not up to the US Department of Agriculture's latest nutritional guidelines: just 10 teaspoons of sugar a day for the average person. Unfortunately, that's just a 16 ounce bottle of regular soda.
Most Americans eat much more sugar than that – more like 30 to 40 teaspoons a day – and we've learned how unhealthy that can be. Excess sugar is now associated with a whole range of health problems: obesity, chronic inflammation, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.
To satisfy our sweet tooth, many of us turn to counterfeiting: artificial sweeteners. There are only five approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States: Acesulfame Potassium (sold as Sunett and Sweet One), Aspartame (sold as Equal, Nutrasweet and Sugar Twin), Neotame (sold as Newtame), Saccharin (sold as Sweet & # 39; N Low, Sweet Twin and Necta Sweet) and sucralose (sold as Splenda). Another, cyclamate, is widely used in more than 100 countries, but banned in the United States.
The FDA says that all five approved sweeteners are safe as long as they are used in moderation. That means no more than 23 packages a day from Splenda, Sweet One or Newtame, 45 packages a day from Sweet & # 39; N Low or 75 packages per day from Equal.
Sounds feasible. Besides weight gain, which has not been proven, why do so many people still consider artificial sweeteners dangerous?
Part of it is due to our suspicion of bringing something chemical or artificial into our body. It is also due to a long history of over-published, ill-designed, poorly designed animal studies that are falsely linking the FDA to artificial sweeteners to cancer.
Here is a story about where we were and where we are today sweeteners. Get ready; it's a roller coaster ride.
Saccharin and Cyclamate
1879: First Artificial Sweetener, Saccharin, Finger Lick & # 39; Good for You
The Russian chemist Constantin Fahlberg ate dinner when he made an amazing discovery: The role in which he had just bitten tasted extremely sweet. Realizing that the sugary, metallic taste had come from his own hands, he hurried back to the lab to find the source. Having seen everything in sight – not a good laboratory safety protocol – he discovered that the sweetness comes from a chance chemical reaction between coal tar derivatives (Yum!) And the production of benzoic sulfinide.
This is a version of the story. Another report says Fahlberg's boss, Dr. Ira Remsen, was the restaurant that had forgotten to wash before eating. Regardless, it was Fahlberg who recognized the commercial viability of saccharin as a cheap sugar substitute that is not metabolized by the body, contains no calories, and does not cause tooth decay. He soon applied for patents and began offering saccharin in powder and pill form as a "non-greasy" alternative to sugar.
1908: Weight-Watching President Roosevelt Prevents Saccharin from Being Banned
Beginning of the 20th-century, eating horror stories like Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" began to scare the American public , In response, in June 1906, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act to protect the public from "adulterated or misrepresented or toxic or harmful foods, drugs or medications." It was not long before saccharine was in the crosshairs.
The indictment was Harvey Wiley, Head of USDA's Chemical Department. Wiley was known for his "Poison Squad," a group of officials who were given room and board when eating food rich in common chemical preservatives, including saccharin. Wiley then examined her urine and stool samples to test the impact on the body. Sure, Saccharin was a danger, so Wiley brought his case to President Theodore Roosevelt.
But Roosevelt would not like it because he used saccharine to handle his weight. Wiley describes the president's reaction in his autobiography: "You say saccharin is harmful to your health, why, Doctor Rixey gives it to me every day, anyone who says saccharin is harmful to health is an idiot."
Wiley did not give up and he was able to ban saccharin from processed foods, but direct sales to consumers were allowed. Over the years, science has not been able to prove that saccharin was harmful, and widespread sugar shortages during World War I and II have fueled consumer demand.
1937: Diabetics Rejoice When Cyclamate Meets Saccharin
Michael Sveda, a chemist at the University of Illinois, worked with a compound called cyclamate when he discovered that his cigarettes were like sugar tasted (obviously he smoked at work). Introduced to the US market by Abbott Labs in 1950, cyclamate was initially marketed for insulin control by diabetics. But cyclamate was the biggest factor in reducing the bitter, metallic taste of saccharin. Usually added in a ratio of 10 parts of cyclamate to 1 part of saccharin, this preparation became the basis of the popular sweet & # 39; N Low brand and was soon sold in millions of snacks and diet sodas. In 1958, the FDA issued Cyclamat GRAS status: Generally Recognized as Safe.
1977: Warning: Saccharin gives you cancer if you're a lab rat
A 1969 study found sperm and chromosome breaks in rats that were exposed to cyclamates. Then, a 1970 study found feeding high doses of the chemical to laboratory rats (5% to 7.5% of the diet) caused bladder cancer in the rodents. The FDA acted quickly and completely banned the use of cyclamate in 1970. Cumberland Packing Corp., the owner of Sweet & # 39; N Low, also switched to an all-saccharin version just as quickly.
But by this time, cyclamate and saccharin were intertwined, in studies and in public awareness. Another 1970 study found bladder tumors in eight out of 80 rats receiving a high-dose mixture of both. Further research followed to find urinary, pulmonary, gastric and reproductive tumors. Despite warnings that the studies were flawed, the FDA announced in 1976 a plan to ban saccharin.
Congress – driven in part by lobbyists in the food industry, partly by a public outcry against loss of access to calorie-free sweetener – took a soft approach. Instead of banning the Congress in 1977, every saccharin-sweetened food must carry a frightening warning sign: "Use of this product may be harmful to health." This product contains saccharin, which can cause cancer in laboratory animals. "
2000: Saccharin does not give you cancer, even if you're a lab rat
Research into saccharin continued. A review study in the Annals of Oncology found over 20 studies examining the effects of high-dose exposure in rats, but only evidence of bladder lesions. A closer look at this study found that researchers used a breed of rats that were often infected with a parasite that would make them susceptible to bladder cancer.
Another group of studies examined second-generation rats and also found bladder cancer. But then it was discovered that feeding rats with vitamin C in the same concentrations as saccharin would also produce bladder cancer. It turned out that rats have different components in the urine than humans and it was these components that interacted with the sweeteners and led to bladder damage. Studies on primates did not find bladder tumors and studies in humans in Denmark, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States also showed no association.
In 2000, Congress removed the warning sign. Saccharin was alright again. But by then, several competitors had appeared on the scene, taking on more of the exploding market.
1965: Another fortuitous find, in many ways equivalent to its predecessors
The chemist James M. Schlatter was looking for an anti-ulcer drug when talking about the sweet The taste of aspartame stumbled as he (you guessed it) licked his finger. A mixture of aspartic acid and phenylalanine, two naturally occurring amino acids, aspartame entered the growing sweetener market in 1973. Today we know it as Equal, Nutrasweet or Sugar Twin.
Unlike the other artificial sweeteners that are normally excreted unchanged, aspartame can be metabolized, so it has minimal calories (about 4 per gram). It also has some known health concerns. It should not be used by anyone with the genetic disorder phenylketonuria or certain rare liver diseases or from pregnant women with high levels of phenylalanine in the blood because it is not metabolised properly in these individuals. The FDA requires that all foods made with aspartame put this restriction on the label.
1996: Correspondences that Aspartame Causes, Detects, and Unproves Brain Tumors
Animal experiments in the 1980s showed no carcinogenic effects of aspartame, even in high doses, and no DNA damage. But that has a researcher named J.W. Olney and his associates, who have established an association between aspartame use and the increasing number of brain tumors in humans, as both have occurred over the same 20 years. Based on a study (later refuted) that showed that 12 aspartame rats developed cancerous brain tumors for two years, Olney and his colleagues suggested that aspartame was the likely cause.
The reaction was rapid, with some demands for a ban on aspartame. Others pointed to the "ecological fallacy" in Olney's argument. Why not call the VCRs, home computers or the hole in the ozone layer, which were newly added in the same period, a foul?
A case-controlled study of children with brain tumors soon brought the matter to rest and found "little biological or experimental evidence that aspartame is likely to act as a carcinogen for the human brain."
The Next Generation: Sucralose, Neotame, and Acesulfame Potassium
1967: Another Brave Chemist Tastes His Delicious Experiment
What happened to the Safe Lab Protocol? Yes, acesulfame potassium, also known as acesulfame K, Ace-K or ACK, was discovered by Karl Clauss and Harald Jensen in Frankfurt, Germany, when they combined fluorosulfonyl isocyanate and 2-butene. Clauss spilled something and then (of course) licked his finger. The tabletop version is called Sweet One, but is often used in combination with other artificial sweeteners to better mimic the "real" taste of sugar.
1976: Another Bites the Sweet Dust
Scientists worked with a chlorinated sugar in 1976 when one of the researchers decided to taste (what else?) It. Sucralose was born. It is made by replacing three hydrogen and oxygen atoms in sucrose with chlorine atoms, making it about 600 times sweeter than sugar.
Today we know this chlorinated sugar derivative as Splenda. As a heat-stable sweetener, it is popular with food manufacturers.
2002: The last artificial sweetener birth is planned
Unlike its predecessors, Neotam was a planned birth. Billions of dollars worth of artificial sweeteners have been used by scientists around the world to find the next big hit. They also wanted to improve older models: improve the bitter aftertaste and develop higher heat stability and a higher sweetness factor (so you can use less and save money).
Developed by Monsanto, the owners of Nutrasweet, Neotame has certainly carried on at least two of these goals: It's heat-stable and the intensity of its sweetness is 7,000 to 13,000 times greater than sugar. But the sweetness takes a while to develop in the mouth, it stays longer, and it can be licorice-like, so neotame is most commonly used in combination with other artificial sweeteners.
2005: Diet drinks Weight gain
By 2005, millions of people used artificial sweeteners to control weight. So it was a shock when researchers at the University of Texas found that conventional wisdom was wrong when they analyzed data from the San Antonio Heart Study for eight years. The more diet drinks a person drank, the more likely he or she would gain weight.
Nobody knows why today. Was it because of the artificial sweetener? Was it something else in the soda? Is drinking a diet lemonade more likely that a person will order a double burger and fries? As several reviews show, it remains a mystery.
2012: Artificial sweeteners likely to be safe, but some persistent health problems
Research into the effects of specific artificial sweeteners is challenging in today's world Many soda and food manufacturers are creating mixtures of sweeteners to mimic sugar and to make their products unique. Therefore, it is difficult to find out which of the sweeteners might be a problem.
But studies continue to cause concern. A 2008 study found that drinking more than two servings of lemonade a day doubled the risk of renal wasting in women. A 2012 study suggested a possible link between diet drinks and increased risk of vascular events. If you use a ton of sweetener – more than 1,680 milligrams a day, and that's a lot – you might be at a slightly higher risk for bladder cancer. And several studies have discovered that daily consumption of diet soda may be associated with metabolic syndrome – a type of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, perhaps because it modifies human intestinal bacteria.
Oh, and to say that, 2013 Review shows that there is still evidence that diet soda helps with weight loss.
2017: More evidence for weight gain
A study published by the University of Manitoba, Azad and her colleagues, published in July in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association, combed the medical literature for the latest randomized controlled studies on artificial sweeteners and weight. Azad said they found little connection to weight loss except in long-term trials sponsored by the artificial sweetener industry.
A separate review of a larger sample of observational studies found that people who used artificial sweeteners over time increased weight gain greater waist circumference as well as a higher incidence of hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular events.
"Based on all previous studies, there is no clear evidence of benefit, but there is evidence of potential harm from long-term use of artificial sweeteners," Azad said. "This should inspire consumers to think about whether they want to consume artificial sweeteners, especially on a regular basis because we do not know if they are a really harmless alternative to sugar."
"More importantly," she added, "Our findings send a strong message to researchers and research funding agencies that further studies are needed to understand the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners."
Stay tuned  Where does this come from? I'm pretty sure a moderate dose of the artificial material will not give you cancer. If you're a heavy consumer – and that's a lot of sweetener – that's a different story.
As far as kidney or cardio problems are concerned, we are confident that further studies to prove (and refute) these concerns are on their way.
Meanwhile, the attitude of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is not nutritious sweeteners can help limit calorie intake a strategy to manage weight or blood sugar.