Thursday, October 6

Saccharin: a new study casts doubts on its effectiveness for weight loss

Today no one disputes that refined sugar is harmful to health, causing us to gain weight in a morbid way, accumulating fat, and shooting glucose levels in our blood. We refer to that obtained industrially and separated from the vegetable fruits that originally contained it.

However, more and more studies and reviews point to the hypothesis that the alternatives, in the form of sweeteners of the most diverse ranges and chemical compositions, they are no better and can sometimes be almost as pernicious as the glucose molecule.

Alterations in the intestinal flora

In this sense, a latest work from the Weizmann Institute of Sciencein Rehovot, Israel, reveals that specifically the consumption of saccharin, the most studied and questioned of all sweeteners, generates alterations in the intestinal flora that could lead to an increase in the sugar present in the blood due to a process of decreased tolerance to glucose in the cells, a process very similar to the one that causes prediabetes in individuals who abuse refined sugar.

During the study, which lasted two weeks, the researchers relied on a group of people who had never previously taken sweeteners. They were divided into several groups that were administered daily during the indicated two weeks, different sweeteners, including saccharin, aspartame or sucralose. Two control groups that were not supplied with any sweetener were also reserved.

All the groups, together with the sweeteners, were made to drink water with sugar, since the objective of the study was to see how the cells behaved with sugar in the presence of the sweeteners. After each intake, serum glucose levels were measured, that is, in blood.

While the control groups showed serum glucose levels consistent with their intake, that is, their cells could manage it, the groups that took sweeteners showed different results, highlighting those that ingested saccharin and sucralose, since their serum glucose levels were appreciably highera data typical of people close to type 2 diabetes.

The researchers postulated that these results could be related to alterations in the intestinal microbiota (bacterial flora), and to demonstrate this they took stool samples from the subjects who had been tested with saccharin and sucralose, and introduced them into the intestine of mice that had been preserved until then from the presence of microorganisms.

The result was, as in humans, unusually high serum glucose levels, which would confirm that the problem occurs at the level of intestinal flora, either due to lack of certain doses of glucose that feed some bacteria, or due to alteration in the proportions of different microorganisms, etc.

A limited but unprecedented study

The conclusions of this work, which in any case the researchers themselves admit as small in time and study universesince they were limited to 120 people, would support that far from bringing clear benefits at the dietary level, neither saccharin nor sucralose are shown to be inert at the microbiota level, with the aforementioned consequences of increased blood glucose, a fact so serious long-term consequences such as the intake of refined sugar.

But this is not the only study that supports the thesis that sweeteners are a dietary waste of time. Already at the end of 2018 a review of studies and publicationscommissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) found no significant evidence that these non-caloric (or low-calorie) compounds had positive health effects “beyond slight weight loss.”

According to the researcher at the Institute for Evidence in Medicine at the University of Freiburg (Germany) and lead author of the study, Joerg J. Meerpohl, “there may be a small effect on weight in the short term [en la ingesta de edulcorantes en sustitución del azúcar], but we don’t have high-quality data to confirm this in the long term.” The work encrypted the possible benefit in 1.3 kg of weight loss on average.

“Nor do we have consistent evidence of notable negative impacts on health,” concluded the researcher when commenting on the study in statements to various media, despite the fact that already in 2018 a study had pointed out possible alterations in the flora from the intake of sweeteners.

Now, the current and new study supports this line of research under the thesis that these compounds they are not only useless as alternatives to sugarbut could also have harmful effects.

The challenge is to insist on this line of research to find out the mechanisms by which they alter the intestinal flora, as well as the responsibility of this when it comes to regulating blood glucose levels and, therefore, the risk of obesity and diabetes of type 2. As many nutritionists point out, the best alternative to sugary drinks is water; and regarding sweet foods, what is indicated are the pieces of whole fruit.

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