After a recent trip to Los Angeles – the mecca of Diet Sodas – I have never observed so many overweight and obese people consuming bottomless buckets of Diet Coke. In every cafe, the selection of sweetener sachets presents a virtual rainbow of choice. The demand is higher than I’ve ever seen and I believe the consequences are becoming increasingly obvious.
Over the years, a large majority of people I’ve met who are constantly battling with their weight are ‘addicted’ to diet soft drinks and other forms of artificial sweetener and ‘diet’ foods. This association has been building in my mind over recent years, but it appears now the evidence is beginning to materialise.
We now know that gut flora plays a significant role in our overall health as well as weight control. Individuals with poor gut flora actually absorb more calories from food than those with a good balance of healthy flora.
Recently, Israeli researchers have demonstrated, in animals and humans, that the effect of artificial sweeteners on changing the gut bacteria has a profound role in changing metabolism, especially the metabolism of sugar. These researchers have been able to induce diabetes in lab animals, simply by feeding them artificially sweetened foods. They then were able to characterise the changes in the gut bacteria. Even more profound was their research that demonstrated that by taking fecal specimens from the animal that had been exposed to artificial sweeteners like aspartame, and transplanting these fecal specimens into laboratory animals that did not have gut bacteria, the risk for diabetes was also increased.
Over coming years we’re likely to see more and more advertising for artificially sweetened beverages as the news related to the dangers of sugar sweetened beverages gets more traction. This should in no way be interpreted as giving the green light for artificially sweetened beverages as we now see science demonstrating that risk of some of our most devastating medical conditions is actually increased with their consumption.