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Artificial sweeteners may tip scales toward metabolic problems

In mice and people, saccharin upsets gut microbes, glucose metabolism

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1:00pm, September 17, 2014
artificial sweetener packets

BITTERSWEET  The artificial sweetener saccharin, an ingredient in Sweet'N Low, meddles with the gut’s microbial community, setting in motion metabolic changes associated with obesity and diabetes.

Eating artificial sweeteners may spur the very health problems that dieters try to avoid. A new multipronged study of mice and a small number of people finds that saccharin meddles with the gut’s microbial community, setting in motion metabolic changes that are associated with obesity and diabetes.

Other zero-calorie sweeteners may cause the same problems, researchers say September 17 in Nature.

Though the finding is preliminary, four of seven human volunteers eating a diet high in saccharin developed impaired glucose metabolism, a warning sign for type 2 diabetes.

“This is very interesting and scary if it really does hold for humans,” says Robert Margolskee of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, who was not involved with the work. “There could be unintended consequences of these artificial sweeteners.”

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