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Medicine Science

Study Finds Link Between Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose Intolerance 294

onproton (3434437) writes The journal Nature released a study today that reveals a link between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and the development of glucose intolerance [note: abstract online; paper itself is paywalled], a leading risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes, citing a critical alteration of intestinal bacteria. Paradoxically, these non-caloric sweeteners, which can be up to 20,000 times sweeter than natural sugars, are often recommended to diabetes patients to control blood glucose levels. Sugar substitutes have come under additional fire lately from studies showing that eating artificially sweetened foods can lead to greater overall calorie consumption and even weight gain. While some, especially food industry officials, remain highly skeptical of such studies, more research still needs to be done to determine the actual risks these substances may pose to health.
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Study Finds Link Between Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose Intolerance

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  • Does HFCS count as a sugar substitute, or real sugar ?

    A while back Mt Dew had a 'Throwback' drink that had 'real sugar'. Haven't seen it lately.

    • Re:Does HFCS count? (Score:4, Informative)

      by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @08:57AM (#47935575)
      It's sugar, just absorbed faster because it's already fructose and glucose. Table sugar (sucrose) has to be digested to break it down into fructose and glucose.
      • Re:Does HFCS count? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Megol ( 3135005 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @09:12AM (#47935663)

        That is largely a myth. The difference isn't measurable in most practical cases.

        • sugar: 50% fructose, 50% glucose
          HFCS: 55% fructose, 45% glucose

          zomg, clearly hfcs is the reason people are getting so much fatter.

          • Re:Does HFCS count? (Score:4, Informative)

            by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @10:17AM (#47936109)
            Actually...that might well be the case! [] I've seen stories trying to debunk this study but it sure looks solid from my perspective.
            • by geekoid ( 135745 )

              That study has be taken apart many, many times.
              Rats genetically engineered for something, show the thing they were genetically engineered to show. Must be the test.

              Bad controls, be methodology, bad samples. Perhaps you should get a more scientific perspective?

          • Re:Does HFCS count? (Score:5, Informative)

            by codeButcher ( 223668 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @10:32AM (#47936265)

            sugar: 50% fructose, 50% glucose HFCS: 55% fructose, 45% glucose

            zomg, clearly hfcs is the reason people are getting so much fatter.

            Most of the glucose one ingests goes directly to "blood sugar", where insulin (if you still have sufficient of the latter **) mops up any unused glucose, converts it to a storable molecule, and stores it in muscle or fatty tissues until needed. Fructose, on the other hand, mostly gets converted to fats in the liver, which are then stored until needed.

            OK, "needed" does not only refer to exercise ONLY, but also to metabolic processes (e.g. breaking up more complex sugars/starches for digestion), thinking, etc. - it's a general cell fuel. So glucose is more readily available in the blood and thus gets used more and stored less. Fructose in the presence of glucose gets stored more than fructose alone.

            Sorry, no citations, as I was hard pressed to find sufficient details (in layman's terms) on the internet to confirm this when I read it in an article. I had to track down a dietitian to confirm it - apparently it's common knowledge in that field.

            ** = Diabetics usually do not produce sufficient insulin, as you may know. The excess glucose in the blood damages proteins in a process called Glycosylation (layman's description, it's not that simple in reality) - including a lot of important tissues like coronary veins. HbA1c is glycosylated hemoglobin which can be easily tested via blood tests - a blood percentage HbA1c against "normal" hemoglobin above about 6.4% represents a sudden increase in risk of cardiovascular disease.

            • Sorry, no citations,

              Dr. Robert Lustig has a pretty detailed discussion of the differences between glucose and fructose metabolism about halfway through this lecture. [] You've got the big picture about right. I would just add that fructose translates (via the liver) into VLDL cholesterol, which is a "prime suspect" in the increase in atherosclerosis.

            • by CrashNBrn ( 1143981 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @01:40PM (#47938077)
              The other part is satiation, and insulin response. Higher levels of fructose do not trigger a normal insulin response, and while food sweetened with sugar vs HFCS will have a similar caloric value --- you wont "feel" satiated due to the unbalance and irregular insulin response. Thus you are more inclined to continue to consume more.

              Coca-cola for example, anywhere else in the world, except the U.S. is made with sugar. You will (should) feel satiated after consuming a bottle of a sugary beverage. Whereas with HFCS you will be more inclined to have another.

              This information has been known for more than a decade. This article Consumption of sugars and the regulation of short-term satiety and food intake [], is from 2003.

              I imagine the Corn Industry lobby has done their best to suppress this information. The corn industry is heavily subsidized in the US, along with Sugar having import tariffs.

              Hell, a few years back know their was a campaign to rename HFCS to Corn Sugar --- as HFCS has gotten too much bad press. I think it didn't get past the FDA
          • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @02:49PM (#47938879)

            sugar: 50% fructose, 50% glucose
            HFCS: 55% fructose, 45% glucose

            zomg, clearly hfcs is the reason people are getting so much fatter.

            You expect a 50/50 mix, and you're getting 45/55 mix.
            You key off of the 45 (glucose), so you're expecting 45 fructose.
            You're getting 55/45 the fructose you expect.

            Bottom line: 22.2% of the fructose in HFCS isn't handled properly. Fructose isn't a problem unless you have tons of it. Fruit has fiber so it generally isn't a problem - you'll be full or bored of fruit before you consume too much fructose by eating fruit. Fruit juice is bad. HFCS is bad. HFCS being used in some many things can make it hard to avoid.

        • There are differences though. For example, a diabetic in an insulin coma can be treated by applying glucose to the mouth lining, but sucrose needs to be broken down in the stomach before it can be absorbed.

      • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Thursday September 18, 2014 @09:20AM (#47935727) Homepage

        The main difference is it is cheaper because it can be produced from corn.

        • by nucrash ( 549705 )

          Was cheaper...

          Because some states were pushing Ethanol pretty heavily, the price of HFCS actually went up enough to justify the cost of real sugar. The only reason why the price of sugar is so high though is because apparently we have to protect the farmers in Hawaii with tariffs on any imports. Subsidies and Tariffs can be the devil sometimes.

          Farm Subsidies also are responsible for keeping the cost of HFCS down below the price of sugar cane.

        • Corn is only cheaper than cane sugar because of massive subsidies combined with import duties. The (right wing Democrat) government of the USA should get out of the way and let the free market deal with this issue.
          • by geekoid ( 135745 )

            Pop quiz, hot shot?
            Why do those subsidies exist? what did they replace?
            You don't know, do you?

    • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @09:08AM (#47935631)

      Does HFCS count as a sugar substitute, or real sugar ?

      A while back Mt Dew had a 'Throwback' drink that had 'real sugar'. Haven't seen it lately.

      It's still very popular here. Though, I live in hippy central. I know a lot of people that refuse to eat fake sweeteners and corn sugars. They're switching to these "throwbacks" and, for example, Hunts Ketchup because it has regular sugar. Anecdotaly, none of them have lost weight as a result that I know of. But they certainly have gotten more annoying.

      • by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @10:41AM (#47936357) Homepage
        Hunts ketchup used to use sugar instead of HFCS. It no longer does. They still have a Hunts "Natural" ketchup that uses sugar, but I believe all of the other Hunts ketchup has reverted to once again using HFCS. Tell your hippie friends to read the label before simply assuming their Hunts is HFCS-free.

        There's other reasons for avoiding HFCS besides wanting to lose weight or trying to be healthy. I avoid it because I hate corn farmers and wish the Cuban embargo would be lifted to dramatically decrease the cost of cane sugar.
        • Also ask your hippie friends if they eat honey, since it's almost identical to HFCS 55 [] with regard to the glucose/fructose ratio.

    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
      I homebrew and use corn sugar all the time as it is more easily fermentable. However you can split sucrose on the stove. Look up recipes for invert sugar. A little heat and acid will do it
      • So you're saying you homebrew cereal malt beverages? Why not make beer?

    • Fructose is the nasty sugar, which makes high fructose corn syrup also nasty. Sucrose is only 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Glucose is the "standard universal" sugar used to make everything from starch to cellulose. And artificial sweeteners are the "weird new thing" which our bodies haven't adapted to yet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      HFCS is more of a "super sugar" than a sugar substitute. Fructose is a natural sugar, and HFCS in its pure laboratory form is only a highly concentrated fructose derived from corn. (high fructose corn syrup).

      For me at least, it is a health concern since if I eat or drink some things that contain HFCS I am more prone to asthma attacks. This may not be due to the HFCS itself; it may be some impurity in food quality HFCS, or it may be some other additive that is commonly used with HFCS. I don't care: I know i

      • Fructose is a natural sugar, and HFCS in its pure laboratory form is only a highly concentrated fructose derived from corn.

        It's only "highly concentrated" compared to plain corn syrup. Despite the name, HFCS isn't pure fructose; it's about 55% fructose and 45% glucose, whereas sucrose is closer to 50/50. And the fact that HFCS tastes sweeter means that you can use less of it for the same result.

        • Parent post is a good example of quibbling over words.

          The stuff is called "high fructose" because sucrose, or normal table sugar, is one fructose molecule bonded to one glucose molecule but HFCS contains 5% of fructose that is not bound to a glucose molecule. This is significant. Hydrogen peroxide used in wound treatments is only 3% H2O2 and 97% H2O, but has very different physiologic effects than plain H2O.

          While HFCS could be used in lower quantities for the same level of sweetness as sucrose, it is ofte

    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      "Does HFCS count as a sugar substitute" Fuck, not that idiocy again. It's nothing else but sugar in its very chemical essence. Fructose can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream and all of our cells that live on sugar can metabolize it.

    • Does HFCS count as a sugar substitute, or real sugar ?

      It contains concentrated fruit sugar but there are a bunch of issues. []

  • by voss ( 52565 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @08:57AM (#47935565)

    Saccharin isnt used in diet drinks anymore for the most part
    and who consumes pure gluecose in any quantity?

    They should have tested sugar vs hfcs vs Aspartame vs Sucralose

    • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @09:11AM (#47935655)

      Saccharin isnt used in diet drinks anymore for the most part
      and who consumes pure gluecose in any quantity?

      They should have tested sugar vs hfcs vs Aspartame vs Sucralose

      Per the study they tested saccharin, sucralose and aspartame.

    • starchy foods break down into pure glucose no? (a potato or shredded wheat for example.)

    • Saccharin is used in fountain drinks still, because then they don't require labeling, and people are only opposed to saccharin when it is on the label. That is why fountain diet coke tastes so much better,
    • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @11:36AM (#47936821)

      Saccharin isnt used in diet drinks anymore for the most part

      Actually, it IS... in the fountain varieties. AFAIK, there are at least three varieties of "fountain" Diet Coke... all-saccharin (popular with convenience stores and low-volume users who prefer it for its long, relatively temperature-indifferent shelf life), saccharin+aspartame blend (used by most fast food restaurants & 7-11 -- still has a reasonably long shelf life, but has to be kept cool to prevent the aspartame from prematurely breaking down) and all-aspartame (AFAIK, it's classified as a "specialty item" manufactured on demand only for the largest clients, including McDonald's and Burger King), which has a relatively short shelf life (~3-6 months).

      In theory, most restaurants probably have enough product turnover to use the all-aspartame version... but Coca-Cola doesn't want the burden of having to actively engage in the kind of aggressive inventory management and rotation they'd have to do to make the all-aspartame more widely available. I believe it was actually McDonald's that approached Coca-Cola and convinced them to make it for them as a special product, then a few years later Burger King used it as a bargaining chip when negotiating their switch from Pepsi products to Coke products (basically telling Coca-Cola, "You're already making it for McDonald's... going forward, make enough extra for us whenever you make a batch for them.")

      As far as I know, sucralose & ace-K aren't used by ANY Coke or Pepsi fountain drink. I believe the problem was that syrup is a low-margin cost-sensitive market segment, and restaurants wouldn't pay significantly more than current prices to get diet drinks made with sucralose & Ace-K.

      Anyway, that's the real reason why "diet coke" from gas stations & nightclubs tastes like complete shit, and why Diet Coke from McDonald's and Burger King tastes better than fountain Diet Coke from just about everywhere else.

  • by DragonIV ( 697809 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @09:00AM (#47935585)
    That weight gain claim stems from a study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health back in 2008. It was refuted the very next year in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, who found all sorts of problems with the study and the conclusions drawn by it. The glucose intolerance angle could be interesting, and have ramifications, but it was one study. After some more review, and more studies, we might be able to draw some real conclusions, but not right now.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 18, 2014 @09:25AM (#47935775)

      If artificial sweeteners are actually giving some people diabetes by disrupting their sugar absorption, then that is indirectly leading to their weight gain through the problems caused by diabetes or at least a diabetes-like state in their blood stream. It doesn't mean that the artificial sweetener itself is directly causing the weight gain.

      Disappointed this submission didn't link to the article in New Scientist [] which does a better job explaining the paper.

  • Details (Score:5, Informative)

    by Major Blud ( 789630 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @09:09AM (#47935641) Homepage

    I read up on this yesterday when it was posted to ArsTechnica. I'm a type 1 diabetic so studies like this catch my interest. The interesting part is that the mice that were given artificial sweetners had higher glucose levels than those with regular sucrose diets. The theory is that the artificial sweetners are affecting the bacteria in the gut of the mice, which is affecting how glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream.

    One should not though that the human trial only included 7 volunteers, which is hardly enough for a good sample. I'm interested to see the findings of a test conducted on a larger sample group.

    • The Non-caloric Artificial Sweeteners (NAS) evaluated in the study were:

      Sucrazit (5% saccharin, 95% glucose), Sucralite (5% Sucralose), Sweet’n Low Gold (4% Aspartame).


      As saccharin exerted the most pronounced effect, we further studied its role as a prototypical artificial sweetener.

      I wonder how stevia or erythritol compare.

      • That's something I wondered as well. I find this intriguing:

        "Sucrazit (5% saccharin, 95% glucose), Sucralite (5% Sucralose), Sweet’n Low Gold (4% Aspartame)."

        So what are the other ingredients in Sucralite and Sweet' n Low Gold?

        • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

          Bulking agents generally maltodextrin because it is cheap, colourless and tasteless. Even looks a bit like sugar. If you did not bulk them out you would have to add them in impractically small quantities that they would be useless for end users. A big soft drinks manufacturer on the other hand can add them neat to their products.

        • Most artificial sweeteners sold in powder form contain a simple sugar or starch to add bulk and give the product free-flowing granules more similar to sugar. Since saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame all taste hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, they are used in much lower amounts, with bulk added for the consumer-serving preparations so that you don't have to add micrograms of sweetener to your coffee to get the equivalent sweetness of sugar. Either glucose (usually listed as dextrose) or maltodextrin ar

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      There's more concern with artificial sweeteners than just glucose intolerance. They've also seen "thickening of the gut lining" -- it's demonstrable and a clear indication that SOMETHING is going on.

      Likely there is an issue with stomach bacteria and an issue where the brain "tastes" sweet and thus primes the body for sweet.

      I've moved to using Stevia as much as possible, because I don't look at artificial sweeteners as harmless. It seems that almost all artificial foods should be avoided. There's no point in

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drexus9 ( 719549 )
      Correction. The study included 381 non-diabetic participants (healthy people). [] In that study "Artificial sweetener consumers showed "markers" for diabetes, such as raised blood sugar levels and glucose intolerance." AFTER THAT, seven of those who did NOT consume the Artificial sweeteners "...blood glucose levels rose and the makeup of their gut bacteria changed in half of the participants, just as in t
      • So this is crazy....from Ars:

        "the team got seven healthy volunteers to start consuming high levels of saccharin (the FDA's recommended maximum daily dose). At the end of a week, four of them ended up with a reduced insulin response."


        "gut bacteria were analyzed from 381 non-diabetics averaging age 43"

        So which one is correct? Does anybody have the data from the actual Nature publication? It's paywalled on their site.

      • Oh I see it now. Shame on Ars for not mentioning the initial 381 :-(

    • Re:Details (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @11:11AM (#47936625) Homepage

      A couple of thoughts:

      The researchers did show some suggestive evidence that gut microflora impacts glucose metabolism and that use of artificial sweetners can disrupt that. The numbers are low and it's not clear how germaine the results are too humans (poor mice...).

      However, consider this: The microbiota changes only occur in mice fed ONLY the artificial sweetener. The thesis being that this clogs up some unknown regulatory pathway in the microbiota which leads to glucose intolerance. Although the did perform some mix-back experiments (n=7), they did not perform the standard 'rescue' experiment which, for humans anyway, would be very telling:

      What happens with a Diet Coke and a Snicker's Bar? It's always best to test these ideas under real world conditions.

      Inquiring minds want to know.

  • by whereiswaldo ( 459052 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @09:16AM (#47935687) Journal

    I had a steady weight for about 2-3 years and started drinking a lot of diet soda and gained 10 pounds. I have cut it out almost entirely (before I saw this study, in fact) and I'll see what happens. I still do like carbonated beverages, so I've switched to an unsweetened, naturally flavoured carbonated drink in a can ("Pure Life" by Nestle. Water, CO2, flavour). I was drinking soda water for awhile but the lack of taste eventually made me lose interest, plus there's salt in it.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @09:20AM (#47935719) Homepage Journal
    I remember the original Saccharin scare in the '70's, and several of the hippy chicks in my extended family warning me and my parents off artificially sweetened "poison." Yeah, they actually said "poison." Hippy chicks are like that. Fast forward to the late '90's and the food companies start pushing the idea that "No, they're fine! Really!" As annoying as the hippy chicks are, I'm more inclined to trust them over some corporation whose entire profit-driven reason for existing is to turn me into a fat fuck. The guys who own them probably also own the pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs that try to fix all the side effects of being a fat fuck, too. That's a win-win for them, right there.

    Ultimately if you want to solve this problem, don't eat sugar OR artificial sweeteners. Don't put anything that could be found in a vending machine in your body. Good dietary tip right there. If everyone in the world just stopped drinking soft drinks, that'd be an enormous win for humanity's overall health. Sure, it would destroy a few of the most powerful companies on the planet in the process, but you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @09:23AM (#47935761)

    I have lost 75lbs. Part of it was exercise, and the other part is cutting out Diet food from my Diet.
    If I want something sweet, I eat something with Real Sugar.
    If I want something fattening then I will eat something fattening, like with real butter.

    I am not about organic and all natural. But you should focus more on foods that you know of. They will tend to fill you up and stop the craving.
    Diet food, doesn't fill you up or solve your craving. So you eat more of it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're half right. Most diet food is low in fat and high in refined carbohydrates. Snackwells are a great example of this push towards a low fat dogma that has plagued the USA since the 70s. So yes, if you eat "diet" food, you can actually gain weight. However, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. High fat/low carb diets trump all others, so eat that butter, but you should eschew sugar if you're trying to lose weight. There's no clear cut evidence that artificial sweeteners have a negative effect on

      • Peple blame sugar when it's other carbs that turn into the bulk of glucose in your body.

        Almost half the calories in a Big Mac are bun. Non-sugar Carbs, via calories, are why we are fat.Chips, bread with everything, buns. Seriously, watch what's on your plate as you eat for several days.

        There was a study 40 years ago where they fed. prisoners two diets of a whipped concoction, with varying amounts of fat and sugar. The fatter you were, the MORE you preferred the. high fat one, and the thinner people prefe

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I trained with an exercise physiologist for 2 years and learned quite a bit about diet and exercise from him. While I wish I had the time to dig up all of the relevant papers, he summarized it this way (paraphrasing, of course):

      "Your body gets into a routine and 'learns' how to function with your caloric intake and activity level. If you eat less but stay at the same activity level or become more active while eating the same, your body will go into starvation mode. It will make more efficient use of the cal

  • by onkelonkel ( 560274 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @10:13AM (#47936083)

    I know this is going to sound crazy, but instead of drinking diet soda or regular sugar sweetened soda, why not drink water?

    • by Barny ( 103770 )

      For me? Because when the rest of my diet is reduced to basic carbs, a dietary supplement (hospital grade sustagen) and liquids, then sometimes a diet soft drink is preferred.

      Can't speak for the rest of people out there, my opinions are my own.

      And if you are wondering why the dietary lockdown, crohns + T2 Diabetes. Basically anything with fiber, acid or undigestible matter (seeds, etc) is off the menu.

    • by myrdos2 ( 989497 )
      Because there's no caffeine in there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TechnoGrl ( 322690 )
      Yes - How insightful! And instead of having a piece of pie now and then why don't we all just satisfy ourselves with some unsweetened bran flakes. Oh hey! Why eat ice cream when you can eat some oats? Why have a steak when you can eat a stick of celery?? Just why DO people want to have a bit of pleasure in their lives anyways? More importantly, exactly how do the most trite comments manage to get modded up to "insightful" ??
  • Eating artificial food isn't good for you.
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday September 18, 2014 @12:17PM (#47937151) Homepage Journal


    Nothing to see here at this time.

  • It is great to see some serious research on the aspartame/splendas type of artifical sweeteners based on amino acids. But you can do your own research. Go down to your local supermarket and look at all of the people who are 100+ lbs overweight who have a case or more of diet soda in their shopping cart. These people are severely disabled. Their quality of life is poor, their mobility is restricited, their life expectancy is greatly shortened, and the high blood sugar levels have severely affected their

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