Many people reach for low-calorie versions of sugary drinks thinking they’re healthier, but it’s been found that gulping down the sweetener aspartame actually disrupts metabolism and can make it harder to drop the pounds.
Experts at Massachusetts General Hospital found aspartame is made up of an amino acid called phenylalanine, which disrupts an enzyme that is key to fending off metabolic disorders.
They came to their results by monitoring four groups of mice for 18 weeks; two groups followed a normal diet, with one given plain water and the other drinking water with aspartame, while the other two groups tucked into high-fat diets with the same water variations.
At the end of the study there was only a small difference between the normal diet groups, but the mice who ate high-fat foods and were given the sweetener put on more weight than those with normal H20.
“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,” senior author Dr Richard Hodin said.
“We found that aspartame blocks a gut enzyme called intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP) that we previously showed can prevent obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
“So we think that aspartame might not work because, even as it is substituting for sugar, it blocks the beneficial aspects of IAP.”
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Further findings showed that the aspartame-receiving mice had higher blood sugar levels and higher levels of inflammation too.
However, The British Soft Drinks Association has fought back against the results, insisting they’re not accurate due to being conducted on mice and going against the “body of scientific evidence” already out there.
“Decades of scientific research, including human clinical trials, show that low-calorie sweeteners, such as those in diet drinks, have been found to help consumers manage their calorie intake when part of an overall healthy diet,” Gavin Partington, BSDA Director General, pointed out.
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Results were published in journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
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