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Artificial sweeteners, like sugar, can lead to obesity and diabetes

Business is booming for companies that make artificial sweeteners. As more people turn away from sugar for health reasons, sugarless candy, diet sodas and other foods using the sugar replacements have grown in popularity.

But a new study found that replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners may not actually prevent diabetes – or shrink the waistline.

“Despite the addition of these non-caloric artificial sweeteners to our everyday diets, there has still been a drastic rise in obesity and diabetes,” said Dr. Brian Hoffmann of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Marquette University, who led the research. “In our studies, both sugar and artificial sweeteners seem to exhibit negative effects linked to obesity and diabetes, albeit through very different mechanisms from each other.”

Hoffman’s study uses a method dubbed “unbiased high-throughput metabolomics” to look at biochemical changes the human body experiences after eating sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Using rats and cell cultures, the researchers examined how their metabolic profiles were altered by each type of sweetener. They also looked at how sugar and artificial sweeteners affected the lining of blood vessels.

Regardless of the type of sweetener the researchers fed the rats, they saw significant changes in the levels of biochemicals, amino acids and fats in the rats’ blood samples. In addition, one artificial sweetener, acesulfame potassium, appeared to remain concentrated in the rats’ blood, causing damage to the cells that lined their blood vessels.

“We observed that in moderation, your body has the machinery to handle sugar; it is when the system is overloaded over a long period of time that this machinery breaks down,” Hoffmann said in a press release. “We also observed that replacing these sugars with non-caloric artificial sweeteners leads to negative changes in fat and energy metabolism.”

The study showed that both sugar and artificial sweeteners can be harmful to the body, but more research is needed, the researchers said.

Hoffman will present the research at Experimental Biology 2018 in San Diego today. The conference brings together more than 14,000 researchers in a number of clinical fields.

By Kyla Cathey, staff writer

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