Artificial Sweeteners and Potential Health Risks….

Over the last few days there has been a bit of a hullabaloo in the press and on social media regarding the use of artificial sweeteners. This is because on Wednesday the esteemed scientific journal ‘Nature’ published a new bit of research on this increasingly controversial issue.

As a mum with young children the use of artificial sweeteners is something that has more and more been on my mind. I must say that I’m quite an advocate of the kids having a diet that includes plenty of naturally occurring fats. So, for example I always give them full-fat cows milk, butter and full fat yoghurts. However I try to steer away from plying them with high sugar foods, and if they are having anything that is traditionally sugar loaded, I tend to go for sugar free varieties. (Shhhh…..but my son has a bit of a weakness for Angel delight!) I’m starting to wonder though if this isn’t such a great idea after all?

With everyone becoming frighteningly aware of the massive obesity problems affecting the developed world, there has been increasing research examining the potential effects of non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) on weight and diabetes. NAS are the typical sweeteners you find in supermarket products; they offer a sweet taste but have zero calories attached to them. This latest study found that mice who were given a solution containing one of three of the commonest NAS (saccharin, sucralose or aspartame) had higher blood glucose levels when compared to mice given normal water instead. The study went on to suggest that the sweeteners had in some way changed the microbes that live in the gut of the mice, which in turn affected the way they metabolised glucose. The concern arising from this and other previous studies, is that artificial sweeteners may give rise to glucose intolerance (higher than normal levels of glucose in the blood stream) and therefore ultimately diabetes.

Clearly the only real conclusion at this stage is that more research needs to be done into this area, especially looking at the effects of sweeteners on humans. It does however make you think about all the things lurking in our cupboards….? I think I be giving the kids water rather than squash for lunch at any rate!

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