Study: High Levels of Saccharin Do Not Lead to Diabetes in Healthy Adults

The use of artificial sweeteners has increased dramatically over the past decade due to growing awareness of the negative health outcomes associated with consuming too much sugar.

New research from investigators at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the Ohio State University College of Medicine has found that high doses of the sugar substitute saccharin does not lead to the development of diabetes in healthy adults.

“Previous studies elsewhere have suggested that consuming artificial sweeteners is associated with metabolic syndrome, weight gain, obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” said first author Joan Serrano, a researcher in the department of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State University, in a press release. “These findings have raised concerns that consuming them may lead to adverse public health outcomes, and a lack of well-controlled interventional studies contributed to the confusion.”

Saccharin is 1 of 6 artificial sweeteners approved by the FDA, according to the study authors. The use of these sweeteners has increased dramatically over the past decade due to growing awareness of the negative health outcomes associated with consuming too much sugar.

“It’s not that the findings of previous studies are wrong, they just didn’t adequately control for things like underlying health conditions, diet choices, and lifestyle habits,” said senior author George Kyriazis, PhD, assistant professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State, in a press release. “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.”

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 46 healthy adults between 18 and 45 years of age with body mass indexes of 25 or less. Participants ingested capsules that contained the maximum acceptable daily amount of either saccharin, lactisole (a sweet taste receptor inhibitor), saccharin with lactisole, or placebo every day for 2 weeks. The maximum acceptable daily amount of saccharin was 400 milligrams per day, which is significantly more than the average consumer would consume, according to the authors.

The investigators excluded pregnant or nursing patients as well as people with acute or chronic medical conditions or who take medications that could potentially affect metabolic function, such as diabetes, bariatric surgery, inflammatory bowel disease, and a history of malabsorption.

“Sugar, on the other hand, is well-documented to contribute to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes,” Kyriazis said. “So when given the choice, artificial sweeteners such as saccharin are the clear winner based on all of the scientific information we currently have.”

The investigators said future research will examine each FDA-approved sweetener individually to determine whether there are differences in how they are metabolized. Researchers will study these substances over a longer period of time to ensure they are safe for daily use.

REFERENCE

Study: High Doses of Saccharin Do Not Lead to Diabetes in Healthy Adults [news release]. Ohio State University; January 12, 2021. http://osuwmc.multimedia-newsroom.com/index.php/2021/01/12/study-high-doses-of-saccharin-do-not-lead-to-diabetes-in-healthy-adults/. Accessed January 15, 2021.