We’ve now looked at sucralose, saccharin and aspartame. Next up is acesulfame potassium. It too is commonly found in soft drinks, tooth paste, medications and I frequently see it in protein powders to sweeten up a post workout shake. But what effect does acesulfame potassium (ace-k) have on insulin or anything else. Well you guessed it, we’re going to find out.
I’ve largely ignored rat studies up till now, but the evidence with this one isn’t as abundant as others so we gotta go with what we have. So lets get dirty.
Rats were given an infusion of ace-k and blood levels were drawn at intervals after the administration of the dose. A dose of 150mg/kg of bodyweight were infused. Lets stop right there. I weigh about 106kg. For me that would be the equivalent of almost 16gm of ace-k. That’s an insane amount of an artificial sweetener and if you ate that much a day I’m sure you wouldn’t be feeling very well. I’ve read that Coke Zero has about 50mg of ace-k per can so to get the equivalent the rats were getting that’s like me drinking 320 cans at one time. If the taste of the Coke didn’t kill me then I’m sure hyponatremia probably would. I know there is probably a conversion that one would need to use to actually figure out what that dose would be in a human and it would be less, but still a lot . Anyway, these rats received a very large amount of ace-k and their insulin levels went up by around double. No increase in blood glucose was seen. 1 So this study supports the notion that if you consume unholy amounts of ace-k your insulin is likely to go up.
In an in vitro study on rat pancreases, islet cells (the ones responsible for insulin release) were bathed in solutions of ace-k. Insulin concentrations were measured at different times after introduction into the ace-k media. Insulin went up. 2 It’s important to remember though that this setting was in vitro, not a real life situation. So these results may or may not translate over to the real clinical realm.
What about humans?
In a human study, diet soda (sucralose and ace-k sweetened) or soda water was given to 22 healthy subjects 10 min before an oral glucose test. Researchers looked at glucose, insulin and GLP-1. Remember that GLP-1 is a hormone that can increase insulin release. Measurements were taken at 30 min intervals for 3 hours after the glucose test. As expected all three rose, the only difference was the GLP-1 rose signifcantly more in those who had the diet soda than those who had soda water.3 In this particular study the GLP-1 didn’t seem to affect insulin. Could this increase in GLP-1 cause problems over time for people? For some people it most certainly could and for others it probably wouldn’t make any difference. The real answer is we just don’t know, and a person can only truly know by testing how it affects themself.
In a feeding study participants who were mild diabetic or borderline diabetic were given meals sweetened either with sugar or aspartame and ace-k. Blood glucose, insulin, triglycerides, FFA, and C-peptides were measured after ingestion of the meals. Blood glucose rose significantly more in the group that had sugar than aspartame and ace-k. Insulin also rose more in the sugar group. 4 This was done over four meals on different days. Again this study shows that, at least in combo with aspartame, ace-k doesn’t seem to affect insulin or blood sugar. Now again this is in a very short term study and doesn’t tell us much about chronic ingestion of ace-k.
From some anecdotal articles I’ve read about people trying to lose weight it has caused problems in some and not in others. One claims that it only hampers the weight loss of “normal people” and very lean athletes. 5
As with the other artificial sweeteners one of the common complaints associated with ace-k is headache. I can say that I do see a lot of migraine medications go out of the pharmacy fairly regularly. I of course can’t claim that it is due to artificial sweeteners like ace-k but I often wonder if people got artficial sweeteners out of their diet if headaches wouldn’t subside at the same time.
In one study of rat feces, researchers noted that anaerobic bacteria were prevented from fermenting glucose with ace-k, cyclamate and saccharin. 6 This doesn’t show conclusively a change in gut bacteria, but it could lead to a change over time which could lead to other problems. What I’m trying to say is that it hasn’t been well studied (at least to my knowledge) and so we can only speculate as to what’s really going on in the gut. Again if you feel like crap after eating something crappy like an artificial sweetener, then stop. Every once in a while, if it causes no problems, then in my opinion it’s like having a nice ice cream (without artificial crap). Ice cream isn’t exactly health food is it? But it sure is tasty and if you give up ice cream forever because it’s not good for you that’s your choice not mine. But I don’t have ice cream every night.
I think if I was ingesting ace-k on a regular basis and was having problems like weight loss or if I was diabetic and having sugar control issues, then I would stop ingesting it for a while and see what would happened. Ultimately the only person responsible for your health is you and if this article has convinced you that ingesting ace-k is ok and won’t cause any problems, then I invite you to reread the article.
I’d love to hear any experiences you’ve had with ace-k or any other artificial sweeteners.
1.Liang, Yin, et al. “The Effect of Artificial Sweetener on Insulin Secretion 1. The Effect of Acesulfame K on Insulin Secretion in the Rat (Studies In Vivo).” Hormone and metabolic research 19.06 (1987): 233-238.
2.Liang, Yin, et al. “The effect of artificial sweetener on insulin secretionII. Stimulation of insulin release from isolated rat islets by Acesulfame K (in vitro experiments).” Hormone and metabolic research 19.07 (1987): 285-289.
3.Brown, Rebecca J., Mary Walter, and Kristina I. Rother. “Ingestion of diet soda before a glucose load augments glucagon-like peptide-1 secretion.” Diabetes Care 32.12 (2009): 2184-2186.
4.Fukuda, Masahiro, et al. “Aspartame-Acesulfame K-containing Low-Energy Erythritol Sweetener Markedly Suppresses Postprandial Hyperglycemia in Mild and Borderline Diabetics.” Food science and technology research 16.5 (2010): 457-466.
6.Pfeffer, M., S. C. Ziesenitz, and G. Siebert. “Acesulfame K, cyclamate and saccharin inhibit the anaerobic fermentation of glucose by intestinal bacteria.” Zeitschrift für Ernährungswissenschaft 24.4 (1985): 231-235.