Decades ago, the introduction of non-caloric sweeteners aimed to reduce caloric intake without compromising on taste. Ironically, the surge in consumption of these artificial sweeteners failed to control the rise in weight gain, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Widely used as a replacement for sugar without raising glycaemia, the use of non-caloric sweeteners can be linked to short term weight reduction. However, prolonged use of non-caloric sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose can adversely impact body composition and metabolism by damaging the liver.
In the initial stages, findings in nutrition research indicated that the impact of non-caloric sweeteners with increased hepatic lipogenesis created more fat storage in the adipose tissues.
Due to its intense sweetness, the caloric signals associated with sweetness and satiety get disrupted. As a result, over a period of time, our body goes into an energy saving mode. The challenge here is that although these sweeteners can trick the sweet taste receptor sites, they cannot elicit satiety signals.
Chronic high doses are now being linked to impaired glucose tolerance and increased inflammation in the body. Changes in the gut microbiota have also been observed due to increases in a highly gluconeogenic substrate. Moreover, links of short chain fatty acids to insulin resistance and inflammation have been found.
Side effects of long-term use of non-caloric sweeteners
Excessive use of non-caloric sweeteners could be a suspect in inflicting damage to organs, especially the liver by causing oxidative stress, increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines and production of free radicals.
Five artificial sweeteners and one low calorie sweetener have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. But we still don’t know how these can impact the human body and brain. More research is needed to establish the safety of artificial sweeteners.
Despite the artificial intelligence on artificial sweeteners, whether or not the benefits will outweigh the risks will all depend on how much is actually safe, and at what cost to health.
The bottom line is that if you are not sure about how many cans of diet soda you can consume in day, always remember that you can’t possibly go wrong with a bottle of water and an apple!