BENGALURU: Consuming artificial sweeteners may aggravate the very problem they are meant to tackle, a recent study conducted in Israel has found.
Eleven scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science and other institutes in Israel performed studies on both mice and men. Their findings suggest that the use of these sweeteners actually leads to a spike in blood sugar among some people. High levels of blood sugar are an indication of diabetes.
Non-calorific artificial sweeteners — aspartame, sucralose and saccharine — are among the most widely used food additives, consumed by both lean and obese individuals. These sweeteners are considered safe as they have low calorie content, though there is little scientific data on this. They are used by both diabetics and non-diabetics as a substitute for sugar.
The scientists believe that the reason these sweeteners raise blood sugar may have something to do with gut microbes, which help digest food and play a role in health. Their research found that mice without gut microbes do not experience a sugar level spike when they take the artificial sweeteners. This may explain why these sweeteners raise blood sugar in some people, but not in others.
The new study would seem to contradict the clearance given by the European Food Safety Authority to aspartame, which it had declared safe for human consumption.
Dr C Munichoodappa, head of the department of diabetology, Bangalore Hospital, says safety concerns have been aired on and off about the consumption of aspartame since it was approved around 25 years ago. “But it has proved to be useful to people who need to avoid table sugar,” he says.