A real update on artificial sweeteners: Saccharin does not lead to diabetes in healthy adults

Saccharin, a common non-caloric artificial sweetener (NCAS), is not directly associated with the development of diabetes, according to a new study published in Microbiome.

This breaks from the work of other researchers, which had suggested a correlation did exist.

“It’s not that the findings of previous studies are wrong,” senior author George A. Kyriazis, PhD, an assistant professor at Ohio State University, said in a statement. “They just didn’t adequately control for things like underlying health conditions, diet choices and lifestyle habits. By studying the artificial sweetener saccharin in healthy adults, we’ve isolated its effects and found no change in participants’ gut microbiome or their metabolic profiles, as it was previously suggested.”

Kyriazis et al. examined saccharin use among 46 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 45 years old. All participants were required to comply with specific physical activity and dietary requirements.

A separate test involved administering pure saccharin at a high dose in the drinking water of mice for a total of 10 weeks.

Overall, the authors noted that “saccharin consumption at maximum acceptable levels is not sufficient to alter gut microbiota or induce glucose intolerance.” Also, after the 10-week period, the mice given saccharin did not display any differences in weight gain compared to other mice.

The team concluded its analysis, however, by emphasizing that NCAS use may still lead to negative outcomes in certain patient populations. Using an artificial sweetener is “likely innocuous” for healthy patients such as the individuals who participated in this study, but for others, it “may be harmful and thus justify revisions in health policy that guides optimal NCAS use.”

This research was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The full study can be read here.