Who doesn’t want to hear that there is a perfectly safe, metabolically supportive, non-caloric, blood-glucose friendly sweetener that is all “natural” with no side effects, gastric disturbances, or hormonal twists?

Many of us may want to hear that but the reality is, science tells us that no such substance exists. 

In the world of gastroenterology and neuroendocrinology, all sweeteners, caloric and non-caloric carry “baggage” that we must be aware of. In general, non-caloric sweeteners, whether they are “natural” (e.g. raw stevia) or man-made (e.g. erythritol) seem to send the message to our endocrine system that they are still “sugar” and the we still see some negative metabolic effects, according to the research. 

Often non-caloric sweeteners are substances that our systems can’t metabolize and this can send our guts literally into a twist, and there are almost always thresholds for these substances wherein gastric upset, diarrhea, etc. can manifest. These are general thresholds and personal tolerances for such substances are highly variable. If you are already suffering from gut related issues, then you may need to be even more cautious about using such sweeteners.

The Pediatric Resilience program generally advises avoiding all added sugars and sweeteners as much as possible. 

We have compiled some of the research on sweeteners here if you want to read more, this above advisory is just a brief non-technical summary of research on sweeteners currently available.

“The majority of observational studies addressing synthetic or non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) consumption show an association with metabolic dysregulation.”

Beyond food intake, numerous studies have shown…

animals consuming synthetic sweeteners exhibit weight gain

accumulation of body fat

impaired glucose homeostasis

weaker caloric compensation

synthetic sweeteners act through the microbiome

reduced validity of “sweetness” to predict caloric content

significant correlation between NNS consumption and weight gain in an 80,000 participants study

Other independent studies confirmed these associations, with synthetically sweetened beverage consumption being associated with a much higher incidence of metabolic syndrome (odds ratio ∼1.93) when compared to non-users

and NNS consumption has been identified as a significant risk factor for metabolic disease

in children

in middle-aged adults

and in the elderly

One study showed that NNS consumers exhibit reduced weight gain

however, these participants showed increased risk for developing diabetes in an 8-year follow-up.

Furthermore, human intervention studies have also shown that ingestion of NNS could

enhance appetite

promote hunger

and increase food consumption

resulting in impaired glucose tolerance

However, other studies have reported no major effect or weight loss as a result of consuming NNSs

The overall impact of NNS on metabolic health remains controversial.

“Despite inclusion in thousands of products, and consumption by billions of people, the molecular effects of ingesting synthetically sweetened food are not well understood. Moreover, there is conflicting evidence from both human and animal studies as to whether or not synthetic sweeteners interact with overall physiology or regulation of energy homeostasis.”

All the studies referenced here are cited and hyperlinked in the following (open access) article.

Sucralose Promotes Food Intake through NPY and a Neuronal Fasting Response

Read More

Welcome to the Next Generation of Sugar Replacements. The pandemic turbocharged interest in substitutes that taste like sugar while being healthier. But medical experts are sounding a note of caution. Bloomberg.com

Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California at San Francisco, said it’s still unknown whether putting anything sweet on a human tongue sends the same message to the brain. It’s possible, he said, that an insulin response is triggered regardless of it being sucrose or a substitute. The pancreas controls insulin response, and that controls weight gain, he explained.

“All of these companies are running around trying to figure out what to do to mitigate the negative effects,” said Lustig. “The right answer is to de-sweeten our lives.”

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