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diabetes

As bad as sugar, or worse

Artificial sweetener: alters intestinal microbiota and triggers glucose intolerance

eduardo cesarArtificial sweetener: alters intestinal microbiota and triggers glucose intoleranceeduardo cesar

Prolonged use of artificial sweeteners may have the opposite of the desired effect. These products are usually consumed by diabetics or people on calorie-restricted diets, believing that they help control blood sugar (glucose) levels. But they can actually have the opposite effect, according to a discovery by a group coordinated by Eran Elinav at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. The researchers fed different diets to healthy mice. The first group drank only water; the second, a mix of water and sugar; and the third, water with a commercially available artificial sweetener. After 10 weeks, the animals in the third group had developed glucose intolerance, a condition that precedes diabetes (Nature, September 18, 2014). Elinav and his team saw that the sweetener does this by altering the intestinal microbiota – the bacteria that live in the gut and help to regulate physiological processes, like energy extraction from food. Rodents raised to be devoid of intestinal bacteria developed glucose intolerance after receiving transplants of either the microbiota of mice treated with sweetener or bacteria grown in the presence of sweetener. The metabolic changes exhibited by the rodents were similar to those of people who consume large amounts of sweetener: weight gain and higher fasting blood glucose levels. “Associated with other changes in human nutrition, the consumption of sweeteners coincides with the increase in the obesity and diabetes epidemic,” wrote the researchers. “Our results suggest that sweeteners may have directly contributed towards increasing the epidemic that they are supposed to be fighting.”

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