Harvard Women's Health Watch

Artificial sugars may raise blood sugar

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A report in the Sept. 17, 2014, issue of the journal Nature demonstrates that three common sweeteners—saccharin (found in Sweet'N Low), sucralose (found in Splenda), and aspartame (found in NutraSweet and Equal)—can raise glucose levels, possibly by changing the composition of intestinal bacteria.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel determined people who used a lot of artificial sweeteners tended to have higher blood glucose levels and different intestinal bacteria from those who didn't use them. When they fed the maximum recommended dose of saccharin to seven people who had never used artificial sweeteners, they found that, after five to seven days using the sweetner, four of the people had a significant increase in blood sugar levels—and a significant change in intestinal bacteria.

The results suggest that the unique mix of bacteria in our intestines may be affected by artificial sweeteners, rendering some of us more susceptible to weight gain and diabetes. However, seven people is too small a number and a week is too brief a time to warrant any conclusions, so the researchers are recruiting hundreds of volunteers for a larger study.

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