Diet Soft Drinks Linked with Obesity, Diabetes in Major Study


Artificial sweeteners in diet sodas and low calorie ‘health foods’  disrupt the gut flora leading to obesity, diabetes and other chronic health conditions.

Diet sodas, cakes, yogurts and many ‘health foods’ have come under increasingly scrutiny in recent years as studies have found that the artificial sweeteners they contain – used in place of sugar – may lead to similar if not higher levels of obesity and diabetes as well as other health conditions.
Now a new study presented today at the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego has shown more significant evidence of these ill effects.

Artificial sweeteners are one of the most commonly used food additives today, frequently consumed in diet and zero-calorie sodas and other products.

Greater awareness of the effects of sugar high calorie foods and beverages on our health has led to a dramatic increase in popularity of low or zero-calorie foods such as diet coke, which are sweetened for taste using non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) in place of sugar.

Most commonly used artificial sweeteners include Aspartame and Sacharin, both are excitotoxins that have been linked with numerous chronic health issues, such as weight gain, Type 2 Diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, including strokes.  Previous studies have also indicated that artificial sweeteners, including saccharin and aspartame, change the make up of our gut micro biome. However a number of these have been criticised for their design, and potential bias.

The Largest Study of its Kind

This latest research – the largest study of its kind led by Brian Hoffmann, at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Marquette University provides further evidence that these sugar replacements may lead to weight gain, obesity, diabetes and other chronic health condition.

The study tracked biochemical changes in the body following the consumption of sugar or artificial sweeteners in rats and cell cultures.

“Sugar and artificial sweeteners exhibit negative effects linked to obesity and diabetes”

“Despite the addition of these non-caloric artificial sweeteners to our everyday diets, there has still been a drastic rise in obesity and diabetes,” said Dr Hoffmann, “both sugar and artificial sweeteners seem to exhibit negative effects linked to obesity and diabetes, albeit through very different mechanisms from each other.”

The team believe that sugar consumption in moderation poses no significant risk to the body – but when consumed in high quantities over long periods of time that it starts to become a problem. They also found that when sugar us replaced with non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) such as Saccharin and Aspertame, this also leads to problematic changes in fat and energy metabolism.”

His team’s research is unique and of particular interest due to the advanced technology and methods used to assess these biochemical changes in the body – providing a much greater depth of analysis than in prior studies.

In another recent study at George Washington University on human participants, Sabyasachi Sen, found increased fat-producing genes and fat storage in obese people who consumed low calorie sweeteners, and that this was notably more significant with increased dosages of the artificial sweeteners.

As the evidence mounts against the use of these non-caloric artificial sweeteners, the food and beverage industry is meanwhile in the process of adapting their products to avoid the sugar tax recently imposed in the UK and being debated elsewhere.

Use of Artificial Sweeteners Set to Increase further

sweet-n-low artificial sweetenerA specific tax on sugar is already in place or being rolled out in 28 countries, including 7 US cities.

In the UK the food and beverage manufacturers have been given two years to adapt their products and lower the quantities of sugar if they want to avoid this tax. Within the industry it is widely understood that to avoid this tax manufacturers will be using greater levels of these artificial sweeteners in their products.

With the mounting evidence against the use of artificial sweeteners a better strategy in fighting obesity, diabetes and improving general health would be a initiatives focused on reducing sweetener intake, whether caloric sweeteners such as sugar or non-caloric, such as Aspartame and Sacharin.



About Author

John Cairn [BA] is a writer and food blogger, originally from the UK with a passion for food, travel and warm climates.