(HealthDay News) — Artificial sweeteners can potentially make blood glucose levels rise despite containing no calories, researchers report in Nature.
Mice fed artificial sweeteners developed higher blood glucose levels compared with mice drinking plain water or even water laced with sugar, researchers noted. They further found that they could bring the mice’s blood glucose levels back to normal by treating them with antibiotics. And, they could induce higher blood glucose levels in healthy mice never exposed to artificial sweeteners by transplanting gut bacteria from mice who had been fed saccharine.
Turning to a group of nearly 400 people, the researchers found that long-term users of artificial sweeteners were more likely to have higher fasting blood glucose levels. They were also more likely to have signs of impaired glucose metabolism, compared with people who don’t normally use such sweeteners.
In a small follow-up experiment, the researchers tested blood glucose levels of seven people who don’t normally consume artificial sweeteners. The researchers found that four of these people had higher blood glucose levels after consuming the FDA’s maximum recommended daily amount of saccharine for 6 days straight.
“We were surprised, given the massive consumption and use of artificial sweeteners and their general regard as being safe,” study coauthor Eran Segal, PhD, a professor of computer science and applied mathematics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, told HealthDay.
Even though the human and mouse studies mainly focused on saccharine, the first set of mouse experiments also included sucralose and aspartame, Segal said. All three appeared to have the same effect on blood glucose levels in mice.
- Suez J et al. Nature. 2014;doi:10.1038/nature13793.