By Brian W. Donnelly, M.D., Pediatric Alliance — North Hills Division



When artificial sweeteners were first introduced, many overweight people were delighted. It meant being able to have the same (or similar) sweetness while consuming fewer (or even no) calories.  So, weight loss would be a piece of cake (so to speak), right?

It would be nice to affirm that with a “Right!” but over time, that approach has not worked out as planned. One theory for the failure of artificial sweeteners is that they actually stimulate the appetite. So, you can fool the brain, but the body will make up the difference later.

A new study in the journal Nature gives us more to think about. The researchers looked at what 3 different artificial sweeteners — saccharine, sucralose, and aspartame — did to the bacteria in the intestines of both mice and humans. The sweeteners led to higher blood glucose levels in both groups of mammals and to many fewer colonies of “good” or “friendly” gut bacteria in some humans.

What is the connection, you ask? The thinking is that the “bad” bacteria bolstered by the fake sweeteners lead to an inflammatory response, which indirectly raises the blood sugar.

All of which should continue to lead us away from using artificial sweeteners or, at least, lowering our expectations of them. If we are thirsty, water should be our “go to” beverage.

This information should also increase our respect for the intestinal microbiome: those trillions of bacteria that affect our well-being more than we might realize.

Ponder that while eating some fresh vegetables!


More PediaBlog posts by Dr. Donnelly here.