Are Sugar Alcohols Safe?


Maltitol is aptly named with the prefix “mal” because it can cause some mal-content in your gut!

This is the last past in this series and then I think I’m done with sugar and substitutes for a while.

So are sugar alcohols just druken forms of sugar, one on vodka while anothers down the whiskey? Not really. That is utter silliness. So what are they? Well…..

They resemble sugar and have hydroxyl groups (1 part hydrogen 1 part oxygen) on them. In fact, maltitol has several hydroxyl groups on it. Generally they can’t be fermented by mouth bacteria and they are popular in gum for the reason of promoting dental health. If this sounds familiar it’s because, as we discussed in the last post, xylitol is very popular for dentists and gum makers alike. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. I just decided to give it its own post. Don’t ask why because I couldn’t tell ya. They can be broken down in the colon though and can be problematic for people because of bloating, gas, discomfort etc. This is why some people who eat those diet bars can have gas after a while. I know for me they (sugar alcohols) are out of my diet in any significant quantity for that reason. Even some gum can set my stomach off. People with IBS and other gut problems would probably be wise to avoid these as they may exacerbate these conditions. So lets look a bit into each one.


This guy looks very similar to xylitol. It’s 60-70% as sweet as sugar. A good amount of it is actually absorbed and 90% is excreted in the urine. So about 10% is left in the colon. 1 Since not a lot of this one gets to the colon, it doesn’t cause as many GI problems as say xylitol or malitol. Erythritol has about 0.2 kcal/gram. None of them by the way are calorie free. It appears, at least in the short term to have no effect on glucose or insulin levels in diabetics. 2 Per my usual thoughts on stuff like this, use it sparingly, like anything else and if it causes any problems, don’t justify continued use because someone says it’s “healthy”.


Maltitol is 75-90% as sweet as sugar. It has about 2.7kcal/gram. This guy is much more likely to raise some ruckus in the colon so be careful when eating foods sweetened with it. Maltitol does raise insulin a little bit and blood sugar a little bit but they quickly return back to normal. 3 In the case of diabetics it might be a good idea to check levels of glucose just to see if there is a problem. Really it should be done for all sweeteners, artificial or not, if one chooses to use them.


Sorbitol is about half as sweet as sugar and has around 2.6kcal/gram. It has minimal impact on glucose and insulin concentrations. 4 From what I’ve read sorbitol doesn’t get metabolized by mouth bacteria and thus may be helpful in caries reduction. It’s also a great humectant which means it holds on to moisture well. This is probably why it’s used in many sweets that need to stay somewhat moist to be good. It can cause GI distress just like the rest. I know sometimes if I’ve chewed gum with sorbitol I get a little upset stomach. It’s nothing major, but I try to stay away from it if possible. GI upset…well it just sucks and I’d rather go without.

Hydrogenated Starch Hydrosylates (HSH)

HSH is kind of a mixture of different sugar alcohols. There isn’t one dominant substance. They are created by hydrolyzing starch and then hydrogenating the products. What results is HSH. Sometimes the hydrolyzing process creates sorbitol and sometimes it doesn’t reach completion and creates others. Bottom line is you have a mix of sugar alcohols. The rest of this paragraph would pretty read as the above paragraphs. So I’m not going to beat a dead horse.

Others you might see on a lable include mannitol, lactitol, and isomalt. Again more of the same.

Final Thoughts

I think the need to produce so many different types of sweeteners is a result of our craving for sweets. We want sweet food or we wouldn’t buy it. One of the things I learned about eating whole foods was that after a short period of time the true taste of the food started to come through and I started noticing subtle things I hadn’t noticed before. Apples taste really good and so do oranges. Different vegetables had flavors and textures that were wonderful to experience. I’ve had some clients who’ve said the same thing. One said she couldn’t believe how good apples were after ditching some of the things she was consuming before. Tasting food as it should be tasted is really cool.

If you don’t use artificial, sugar alcohols or just plain ol sugar, then I would suggest don’t start and just keep eating tasty food. If you use any of these and are having headaches, stomach or gut problems, neurologic problems or just any problem, try cutting it out for a month and see what happens. For diabetics check blood sugars might be a wise idea when using these as opposed to not using them. The studies and research is great at giving a broad general answer but not always so good at giving you a specific answer. I think the sugar alcohols are much better than the artificial sweeteners, but that doesn’t make them benign. And they make ice cream taste like crap. Truly an abomination!


1.Munro, I. C., et al. “Erythritol: an interpretive summary of biochemical, metabolic, toxicological and clinical data.” Food and chemical toxicology 36.12 (1998): 1139-1174.

2.Ishikawa, Masashi, et al. “Effects of oral administration of erythritol on patients with diabetes.” Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 24.2 (1996): S303-S308.

3.Secchi, A., et al. “Effects of oral administration of maltitol on plasma glucose, plasma sorbitol, and serum insulin levels in man.” Klinische Wochenschrift 64.6 (1986): 265-269.

4.Macdonald, I., Anne Keyser, and Deborah Pacy. “Some effects, in man, of varying the load of glucose, sucrose, fructose, or sorbitol on various metabolites in blood.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 31.8 (1978): 1305-1311.


Neotame: The Newest Artificially Sweet Seduction

sugar lipsSucralose, saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium and now neotame are all artificially sweet substances that cause problems for many. Today we discuss the last, neotame.

Neotame (kind of sounds like the Matrix) is essentially aspartame with the addition of a 3,3-dimethylbutyl group which is supposed to stop it from being broken down to phenylalanine and thus safe for people with phenylketonuria. I don’t mean to be an alarmist but this stuff isn’t exactly benign. Here are two links to the chemical properties and handling warnings regarding 3,3-dimethylbutyl;

It is flammable and an irritant to the skin and eyes and respiratory system. Much of the data regarding this substance has been published by industry and not independent researchers. Here is a short review of a review looking at some of those studies. I will post the link so you can take a look at it too if you want.

In a study of 19 healthy males and 12 healthy males in a three way crossover study no  “chemical, haematological, physiological or subjective findings were recorded“.1

In another study 12 people of each sex were given 20mg caps of neotame daily and was well tolerated, according to the paper. The only difference seen was greater availability in women than men. So maybe with long term ingestion women would be more affected.

In another larger study of 76 men and 75 women, neotame was dosed at 0.5mg/kg and 1.5mg/kg bodyweight for 13 weeks. The researchers concluded there was no difference between treatment groups and placebo. Headaches in this study were not significantly different between groups either.1

Another looked at non-insulin dependent diabetics. Neotame was given 3 times a day in capsules at the same doses as the above mentioned study. Plasma glucose and insulin were unaffected. Flu like syndrome, headache and sinusitis were reported with more in the placebo group reporting problems than the test group.1

As far as metabolism goes, 4.9 percent of the total dose given to subjects was excreted as -dimethylbutyl)-L-aspartic acid, so some of the molecules are obviously being cleaved. Could this lead to an alteration of healthy gut flora? It certainly could be possible. No studies yet though to confirm that. Not to mention that the Panel looking at this stated that “there was extensive excretion of neotame metabolites in faeces” which would indicate again the possibility of gut flora alteration over time.

You can read the rest of the paper with the link below. I again have to repeat myself that these studies were not long term and can’t really tell us much about the population at large.

According to one news report neotame is also now being used in cattle feed because the price of molasses is too high. 2 Sweetos apparently is also increasing the amount of weight on the cattle. 3,4 So an artificial sweetener is increasing weight in cattle apparently because of increased feeding.

Side Effects

Many of the side effects of neotame are the same as aspartame which makes sense since neotame is just aspartame with that 3,3-dimethylbutyl group attached to it. Neurologic effects are possible because of the phenylalanine, as discussed with aspartame. I can imagine that  it could effect mood or anxiety. I know my stress goes up when I chew gum with aspartame in it. Seizures have been reported in mice with electroshock potentiation.5 I don’t know how many people are receiving electroshock therapy regularly but the concern would be somebody who is predisposed to seizure activity in the first place.

I also think it worth noting that this substance was approved by the FDA for use in the food supply while things like Stevia could only be allowed as a supplement. I know not all things natural are healthy per se but the things the FDA pulls are just crazy anymore. Neotame is also made by Nutrasweet which is a former part of Monsanto. Dr. Mercola has an interesting chart of people who worked for Monsanto and in the US government.3 Things like this make approvals like neotame and others make sense.

I’ve personally not ever tried neotame…at least to the best of my knowledge. This goes into my category of probably best avoided. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid such things as they creep their way into the food supply. The easiest thing to do is avoid processed foods. If you have stress, anxiety, seizures or other unexplained ailments and you partake of these or think you do, try eliminating them from your diet and give some naturally sweet fruit a shot. Apples taste really good once you train your tongue to taste things as they are and not artificially inseminated with junk. For some having things like neotame every once in a while will probably not adversly affect them at all. I’m just trying to avoid any potential complications all together.

Next up we’ll be talking about some other alternatives like stevia or xylitol.

Do you have any experiences with neotame or any other sweetener? Let me know in the comments.


1.Aguilar, Fernando, et al. “Neotame as a sweetener and flavour enhancer1 Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food.” (2007).




5.Maher, Timothy J., and Richard J. Wurtman. “Possible neurologic effects of aspartame, a widely used food additive.” Environmental Health Perspectives 75 (1987): 53.

Does Acesulfame Potassium Spike Insulin?

sugar lipsWe’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.

Does Aspartame Spike Insulin?

sugar lipsWell we’ve looked at sucralose and insulin as well as saccharin. What about aspartame? It is one of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners and you’ll most likely find it in soda and other sweetened snacks along with acesulfame potassium. So lets take a look at aspartame and sort out what may or may not be correct.

First lets take a quick look at what aspartame is. Aspartame contains phenylalanine, an amino acid, aspartic acid and methanol. That’s right, methanol or wood alcohol. 1 Methanol gets converted into formaldehyde and formic acid, which are both toxic. Two reviews of the safety of aspartame have concluded that this isn’t a problem at the doses typically consumed by the public. 2,3  We’ll talk more about the safety in a bit. Lets now focus on insulin.

In one study of 6 males administration of aspartame had no effect on insulin levels. 4

In another study aspartame was given in meals to 16 normal individuals and they looked at several hormones after ingestion. I think this part is funny. In the study the researches claim,

Serum insulin decreased slightly and serum glucose increased slightly over the course of all test procedures; both responses were statistically significant in nearly all tests”

They then go on to say,

” We found no effect of any of the test meals on serum cortisol, GH, insulin, or glucose…” (emphasis added)

So they either had a typo or forgot that the results were signficant. It is most likely that the decrease in insulin was from the morning meal and the levels were just decreasing back to baseline, and the authors come to the same conclusion. 5

In one study of 48 people, researchers gave sucrose or aspartame over a four month period in crossover. No differences were seen in the subjects with regards to insulin. 6

In another study looking at preload meal compared sucrose, stevia, and aspartame sweetened cream chease and crackers with tea on insulin levels. Blood samples were taken post meal and found that the sucrose and aspartame samples elevated insulin the same after 30 min while the stevia group was significantly lower. This study doesn’t look strictly at aspartame vs sucrose and I think it’s useful in this case because calories were also consumed with the sweeteners as would be done in a real life situation. Aspartame didn’t raise insulin anymore than the sucrose, but it was the same. 7

In a hospital study, diabetic subjects were given aspartame and researchers looked at…you guessed it glucose and insulin, as well as triglycerides and HDL. No change was seen. 8

Another study looked at pretty much the same thing (I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here) but also compared saccharin to aspartame in a drink. No differences were noted with the exception of a small increase in the AUC (total insulin exposure) with the aspartame over saccharin. 9 The researchers claimed there was probably no clinical significance to this. Maybe not and maybe so. Who knows for sure?

Just like the last two articles discussed, these studies weren’t done over a long term (3 years or more) and to be able to make any strong conclusions about aspartame’s true effect on insulin or glucose cannot be made based on these studies. It just looks like if you have something sweetened with aspartame every once in a while, the effect on insulin and glucose in and of itself probably isn’t significant. If you’re eating carbs though with these sweeteners, which isn’t unlikely, are the results different? It’s possible but we just don’t know without the research as a whole. If you check blood glucose and notice that it went down after decreasing aspartame ingestion then you would have your answer.

Aspartame in my opinion, just like other artificial sweeteners is not all that pleasant tasting. It is very sweet, but yeah….not pleasant for me. Ice cream sweetened with aspartame is an abomination. It tastes so much better with good ol sucrose. And yes I do have ice cream from time to time because hey, it’s ice cream!  It is very often found in diet sodas. Sodas are probably the biggest sources of it followed by yogurt and powdered soft drinks, at least according to the Nutrasweet company. 10

But what about other health concerns?

According to one epidemiologic study there was no significant findings for adverse events or toxicity. 11 Another study shows that at doses of 75mg/kg/day of aspartame for 24 weeks with no adverse effects significant over placebo. 13 A quick Google search will quickly dispel those studies with anecdotal evidence. I’m not a person to discount anecdotal evidence, in fact I think it’s important, especially if the N=1 is you. But the studies are important too so I want to review a review that you can access online:

First recall that aspartame gets broken into 3 parts in the body; phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. Phenylalanine plays an important role in neurotransmission as it is a precursor for DOPA, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. It also competes for a ride on a protein called neutral amino acid transporter (NAAT). This transports not only phenylalanine but others as well. Large amounts of one amino acid will out compete the others for a spot on the NAAT and stop the balance that is normally attained. In this case with increased phenylalanine in the brain, levels of catecholamines can be increased. Tryptophan can also be displaced by too much phenylalanine and cause lack of serotonin in the brain. This can lead to sleep problems and and appetite problems. Aspartame may also bind to NMDA receptors and cause neurologic damage.

Aspartic acid may play a role as an excitatory nuerotransmitter and may play a role in the problems caused by ingesting aspartame. Additionally methanol, as discussed earlier can be converted to formaldehyde and formic acid. According to the researchers fibromyalgia, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in the legs, cramps, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, joint pain, depression, anxiety, slurred speech, blurred vision or memory loss have been attributed to aspartame.12

Headache's a problem? Ditch Aspartame

Headache problems? Ditch Aspartame

Much of the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen revolves around headaches. I’ve also read reports about gut problems and other neurologic problems that sound similar to fibromyalgia symptoms. I haven’t come across anything that shows there is an effect on gut bacteria. It wouldn’t surprise me if it did, but I can’t say that it does.

So should you avoid aspartame? Probably. Every once in a while probably won’t do anything if you’re otherwise healthy but I can’t recommend it regularly. The taste is gross and because of that and that companies would taint the oh so wonderful goodness of ice cream with it is enough for me…..and the possible health detriments too of course.

What are your stories? I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with aspartame.


1.Humphries, P., E. Pretorius, and H. Naude. “Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 62.4 (2007): 451-462.

2.Magnuson, B. A., et al. “Aspartame: a safety evaluation based on current use levels, regulations, and toxicological and epidemiological studies.” CRC Critical Reviews in Toxicology 37.8 (2007): 629-727.

3.Butchko, Harriett H., et al. “Aspartame: review of safety.” Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 35.2 (2002): S1-S93.

4.Møller, Svend E. “Effect of Aspartame and Protein, Administered in Phenylalanine‐Equivalent Doses, on Plasma Neutral Amino Acids, Aspartate, Insulin and Glucose in Man.” Pharmacology & toxicology 68.5 (1991): 408-412.

5.Carlson, Harold E., and Jayendra H. Shah. “Aspartame and its constituent amino acids: effects on prolactin, cortisol, growth hormone, insulin, and glucose in normal humans.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 49.3 (1989): 427-432.

6.Spiers, Paul A., et al. “Aspartame: neuropsychologic and neurophysiologic evaluation of acute and chronic effects.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 68.3 (1998): 531-537.

7.Anton, Stephen D., et al. “Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels.” Appetite 55.1 (2010): 37-43.

8.Okuno, Giichi, et al. “Glucose tolerance, blood lipid, insulin and glucagon concentration after single or continuous administration of aspartame in diabetics.” Diabetes research and clinical practice 2.1 (1986): 23-27.

9.Horwitz, David L., Michael McLane, and Peter Kobe. “Response to single dose of aspartame or saccharin by NIDDM patients.” Diabetes Care 11.3 (1988): 230-234.


11.Magnuson, B. A., et al. “Aspartame: a safety evaluation based on current use levels, regulations, and toxicological and epidemiological studies.” CRC Critical Reviews in Toxicology 37.8 (2007): 629-727.

12.Humphries, P., E. Pretorius, and H. Naude. “Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 62.4 (2007): 451-462.

13.Leon, Arthur S., et al. “Safety of long-term large doses of aspartame.” Archives of internal medicine 149.10 (1989): 2318.

Artificially Sweet Seductions – Saccharin

sugar lipsIn the last post we looked at sucralose and it’s effect (or lack of) on insulin. It also has an effect on gut microbes. But sucralose isn’t the only artificial sweetener. Today lets look at saccharin and see what it can do.

Saccharin was discovered in 1878 by a chemist who when sitting down for dinner and noticed a sweet taste after a day at the lab. After tasting the substance he went back to the lab and began tasting everything to find the source. Serendipity led to the “discovery” of saccharin. And it was sweet.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out the implications and soon it began to be added to make things sweet. So the question is how does it affect blood sugar or insulin.

In one study participants, while fasting “sipped, and washed out their mouths with eight taste solutions (sucrose, saccharin, acetic acid, sodium chloride, quinine hydrochloride, distilled water, starch, and sodium glutamate) for 45 s and spat them out again”. 1 Insulin levels raised significantly with the sucrose and the saccharin solutions, but not the others. Blood glucose was not affected during any of the solutions. This study says that there is a potential to raise insulin with saccharin.

In another study different drinks were given to participants with either saccharin, aspartame or non-sweetened drinks and researchers looked at insulin levels.2 No significant difference in insulin levels were seen.

In another study similar to the first one listed, no differences were seen in any case with insulin. 3

In another study researchers gave sucrose or starch sweetened with saccharin in equal caloric amounts and measured insulin levels, glucose levels, triglycerides and glucose excretion. After 6 weeks and crossover for the two groups of another 6 weeks there was no difference. 4

It doesn’t look as though saccharin has a lot of influence on insulin, at least in these human studies. Again it would be good to have a long term study to really look at the impact on insulin and blood sugar. What about weight?

In a study with rats, when added to the diet, saccharin and aspartame increased weight gain. 6 But what about in humans?

To be honest I can’t find randomized controlled trials that show saccharin ingestion and weight increase. There are epidemiological studies that show associations but we all know these do not equal causation. There are many studies in rats that seem to show weight gain like the one I just mentioned above but I don’t always transpose what happens in rats to what happens in humans.

What has saccharin been found to do? In rats it appears to inhibit some digestive enzymes. 6 It also makes stomachs hemorrhage and causes iron deficiency anemia in rodents. 7 It should be noted these affects are in high doses, levels we humans probably wouldn’t get. Another study shows that saccharin reduces good bacteria in rats. 8 This is similar to what was reported with sucralose. This could be very problematic. While I haven’t seen any experiments in humans for this phenomenon I don’t doubt this is something that could translate over into humans.

The problem with most of these studies is that they’re short term. Long term nutritional studies are hard to do. A significant decrease in good gut bacteria probably won’t show up as anything over a 6 week period. Over a 6 year period or longer though that could be problematic. The gut is definitely a crucial part of overall health and disrupting good bacteria may lead to many problems from digestive to autoimmunity.

People have reported nausea and other gut dysfunction and have anecdotally correlated that with saccharin ingestion. It’s important to note that saccharin has a sulfa component to it, which is a major cause of drug allergies in many people. This could be part of the reason why nausea seems to be a problem. It could be a low level intolerance or allergy to this sulfa component. If you have a known sulfa allergy it would be good to avoid saccharin.

The FDA almost got a ban on saccharin back in the 70’s but it got defeated. They were concerned with bladder cancer in rodents. While a little saccharin here and there probably isn’t at all a problem for many, many others might feel its effects quickly. Ultimately the only way to know is to experiment with yourself but my advice is overall stay away from artificial sweeteners. Saccharin has a nasty aftertaste anyway.


1.Just, Tino, et al. “Cephalic phase insulin release in healthy humans after taste stimulation?.” Appetite 51.3 (2008): 622-627.

2.Horwitz, David L., Michael McLane, and Peter Kobe. “Response to single dose of aspartame or saccharin by NIDDM patients.” Diabetes Care 11.3 (1988): 230-234.

3.Teff, Karen L., John Devine, and Karl Engelman. “Sweet taste: effect on cephalic phase insulin release in men.” Physiology & behavior 57.6 (1995): 1089-1095.

4.Cooper, P. L., M. L. Wahlqvist, and R. W. Simpson. “Sucrose Versus Saccharin as an Added Sweetener in Non‐insulin‐dependent Diabetes: Short‐and Medium‐term Metabolic Effects.” Diabetic medicine 5.7 (1988): 676-680.

5.Feijó, Fernanda de Matos, et al. “Saccharin and aspartame, compared with sucrose, induce greater weight gain in adult Wistar rats, at similar total caloric intake levels.” Appetite (2012).

6.Lok, Eric, Frank Iverson, and David B. Clayson. “The inhibition of urease and proteases by sodium saccharin.” Cancer letters 16.2 (1982): 163-169.

7.Okamura, T., E. M. Garland, and S. M. Cohen. “Glandular stomach hemorrhage induced by high dose saccharin in young rodents.” Toxicology letters 74.2 (1994): 129-140.

8.Mallett, Anthony K., Ian R. Rowland, and Carol A. Bearne. “Modification of rat caecal microbial biotransformation activities by dietary saccharin.” Toxicology 36.2 (1985): 253-262.

Disclaimer: All info on this website is for education purposes only. Any dietary or lifestyle changes that readers want to make should be done with the guidance of a competent medical practitioner. The author assumes no responsibility nor liability  for the use or dissemination of this information. Anyone who chooses to apply this information for their own personal use does so at their own risk.

Artificial Sweeteners-Artificially Sweet Seductions

sugar lipsArtificial sweeteners are an interesting topic. They took years to first get approved by the FDA and have been making lots of money as they are added into pretty much anything that is normally sweet. They have also been quite a recommended lot to people who have diabetes as an alternative to sugar. I mean it does make sense that if you have a sweet substitute with no calories that is a good thing, especially in diabetes right?

Lets take a look at some of the claims. I think this is really important to look at because if you’re not paying attention you too could be ingesting these artificial, lab cooked up molecules. Is this a bad thing?


We’ll start this journey with sucralose (Splenda). It’s a molecule that is anywhere from 320-1000 times as sweet as sugar. 1 That’s demonstrably sweet. Sucralose, if bought in small tablets can sweeten just about anything because it is so freaking strong. One of the problems though is that unless you buy the small tablet forms or pure sucralose you’re going to get a product that is typically mixed with glucose or maltodextrin as a bulking agent. Now sucralose may have no calories, but maltodextrin and glucose most definitely have calories as they are polysaccharides and a monosaccharide respectively (multiple linked sugar chain and single molecule). So every time you put a cup of Splenda or another generic brand you are actually putting a number of calories into your recipe. So again, unless you’re using the small tabs which are typically pure sucralose, and very potent, you’re eating more calories then what they lead you to think.

Insulin Response

Another fault many people claim with sucralose is that it raises insulin levels. Many have stated this with other artificial sweeteners as well. So is it true? Lets find out.

In one study subjects took either sucralose in water or plain water before a glucose test. Blood sugar and insulin response was measured. Increased insulin secretion, area under the curve (total insulin exposure), and a decrease in insulin clearance resulted. 2 This study says YES, that there IS an effect.

In another study, intragastric infusions of sucralose were given to subjects. No increase in GLP-1 or insulin or gastric emptying was seen. 3 This study says there is NO difference.

Another study using sucralose, maltodextrin+sucralose, or a modified feeding protocol. There was no increase in insulin or other factors after the sucralose but not after the maltodextrin. This means maltodextrin raised insulin levels as expected but sucralose did nothing. 4 This study also says NO.

In the UK subjects were given 1gm/day of sucralose for 12 weeks. Again no differences in blood glucose or insulin levels were seen. 5 This study says NO.

So it appears that with the exception of 1 study, sucralose doesn’t really cause insulin increases on ingestion, at least in the short term. I haven’t seen any long term studies and really those are the studies that are super important and hard to perform. But in the short term sucralose doesn’t raise insulin except maybe when paired with other carbohydrate. This may or may not pan out but it also may be important to keep this study in mind because there may be some sort of synergy between surcralose and another carbohydrate source where none is seen with sucralose alone. Longer term studies are needed to really know if this causes problems in the long term. I would suspect it would. Anytime you raise insulin levels for the same load of glucose, that’s not a good thing.

On its own though there doesn’t seem to be an issue with raising insulin. So apparently you can enjoy sucralose without other carbs, but can it do anything else?


Gut bacteria is becoming a hot topic in the realm of health sciences. We are learning more and more about the relationship of our gut bacteria and our health and are beginning to find associations between different bugs and different conditions. On study looks at what happened in rats after 12 weeks of taking sucralose.

Rats were fed, 100, 300, 500 or 1000mg/kg for 12 weeks. I have to say that this a a huge dose. For a person weight 75kg or 165 lbs, that’s 7.5gm and at the high dose that’s 75gm. It wasn’t clear if that was the total dose of sucralose or the branded version this is cut with maltodextrin or glucose. If it was the latter then it makes much more sense, but again they weren’t clear. According to the study,

“the numbers of total anaerobes, bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, Bacteroides, clostridia, and total aerobic bacteria were significantly decreased” 6

After 12 weeks of recovery these changes did not revert back to what they were at baseline. This could have consequences on people in the long term as we learn more and more about our gut flora. The other thing this experiment showed that the sucralose affected p-glycoproteins and cytochrome p-450 in the gut. These are responsible for the metabolism and excretion of various other chemicals, including drugs. That could mean a change in the long term for people that may need to be on a specific medication. (Not that we’re hoping that someone has to be on medications long term). It may also affect nutrient absorption.

Anecdotally I’ve read and heard about rashes, migraines, increased blood sugar, dizziness, gut problems and some have claimed weight gain. I have no doubt that these effects could be contributed to sucralose, especially the gut problems and increased blood sugar. Although I just showed that on its own it doesn’t seem to affect blood sugar, in combo with other carbohydrate loads insulin increased over baseline. Ultimately you have to find out for yourself, but my advice is to stay clear.

Personally I don’t like sucralose. I don’t care for the taste (when I used to drink fruit juices regularly I thought it made my grapefruit juice taste like crap) and I’m just not a fan of artifical sweeteners. I try to stay away from sugar as much as possible. I’d be interested in hearing what you think or any personal experiences you have.


1. Michael A. Friedman, Lead Deputy Commissioner for the FDA, Food Additives Permitted for Direct Addition to Food for Human Consumption; Sucralose Federal Register: 21 CFR Part 172, Docket No. 87F-0086, April 3, 1998

2.Pepino, M. Yanina, et al. “Sucralose Affects Glycemic and Hormonal Responses to an Oral Glucose Load.” Diabetes care (2013).

3.Ma, Jing, et al. “Effect of the artificial sweetener, sucralose, on gastric emptying and incretin hormone release in healthy subjects.” American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 296.4 (2009): G735-G739.

4.Ford, H. E., et al. “Effects of oral ingestion of sucralose on gut hormone response and appetite in healthy normal-weight subjects.” European journal of clinical nutrition 65.4 (2011): 508-513.

5.McNeil (1996) A 12 week study of the effect of sucralose on glucose homeostasis and HbA1c in normal healthy volunteers. Submission
to FDA: McNeil Specialty Products Company Internal Report no. E169. Mcneil Specialty Products Company Food Additive Petition
7A3987 (Sucralose).

6.Abou-Donia, Mohamed B., et al. “Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats.” Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A 71.21 (2008): 1415-1429.