Tags: Obesity | aspartame | NutraSweet | sugar | substitute | weight-loss

Why Aspartame May Not Promote Weight Loss

Why Aspartame May Not Promote Weight Loss

(Copyright Fotolia)

By    |   Wednesday, 23 November 2016 12:20 PM


Millions of people use aspartame as a sugar substitute, often in an effort to curb calories and lose weight. However, studies have shown that aspartame (NutraSweet) actually causes weight gain. But why?


A team at Massachusetts General Hospital found that it interferes with the action of an enzyme shown to prevent metabolic syndrome, and that mice that drank water spiked with aspartame gained more weight and developed other symptoms of metabolic syndrome, such as high blood sugar, than mice fed similar diets that didn't contain aspartame.


"Sugar substitutes like aspartame are designed to promote weight loss and decrease the incidence of metabolic syndrome, but a number of clinical and epidemiologic studies have suggested that these products don't work very well and may actually make things worse," says the study's senior author Dr. Richard Hodin of the MGH Department of Surgery.


"We found that aspartame blocks a gut enzyme called intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP) that we previously showed can prevent obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome," he said, "so we think that aspartame might not work because, even as it is substituting for sugar, it blocks the beneficial aspects of IAP."


In a 2013 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Hodin's team found that feeding IAP to mice kept on a high-fat diet could prevent the development of metabolic syndrome and reduce symptoms in animals that already had the condition.


Phenylalanine, which is produced when aspartame is digested, inhibits the action of IAP, led the researchers to investigate whether its actions could explain aspartame's lack of aiding weight loss.


In a series of experiments, they found that the activity of IAP was reduced when the enzyme was added to a solution containing an aspartame-sweetened soft drink, but remained unchanged if added to a solution with a sugar-sweetened beverage.


In the current study, the researchers followed four groups of mice for 18 weeks. Two groups were fed a normal diet, one receiving drinking water with aspartame, the other receiving plain water.


The other two groups were fed a high-fat diet, along with either aspartame-infused or plain water. Animals in the normal diet group that received aspartame consumed an amount equivalent to an adult human's drinking about three and a half cans of diet soda daily, and aspartame-receiving animals in the high-fat group consumed the equivalent of almost two cans.


At the end of the study, there was little difference between the weights of the two groups fed a normal diet, but mice on a high-fat diet that received aspartame gained more weight than did those on the same diet that received plain water.


All mice that consumed aspartame had higher blood sugar levels than did those fed the same diets without aspartame. All mice also had higher levels of the inflammatory protein TNF-alpha in their blood, which suggests the kind of systemic inflammation associated with metabolic syndrome.


"People do not really understand why these artificial sweeteners don't work," Hodin said. "There has been some evidence that they actually can make you more hungry and may be associated with increased calorie consumption.


"Our findings regarding aspartame's inhibition of IAP may help explain why the use of aspartame is counterproductive," says Hodin, who is a professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School.

The new study was published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.


Numerous studies have found that aspartame stimulates the appetite and increases carbohydrate cravings. One study found that people who drank diet sodas saw their waistlines increase 70 percent more than those who didn't drink diet drinks.


Still other studies have shown that aspartame is counterproductive for diabetics and can actually make insulin sensitivity worse.


Aspartame, which is 200 times sweeter than sugar, was approved by the FDA in 1985.
 

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Millions of people use aspartame as a sugar substitute, often in an effort to curb calories and lose weight. However, studies have shown that aspartame (NutraSweet) actually causes weight gain. But why? A team at Massachusetts General Hospital found that it interferes with...
aspartame, NutraSweet, sugar, substitute, weight-loss
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2016-20-23
Wednesday, 23 November 2016 12:20 PM
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