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Initial Concerns

Artificial sweeteners introduced to food industry 1980s

brain cancer rates

1994 Study:

Observed cognitive behavioral effects

in preschool/school-aged children
Fed 3 diets: sucrose, aspartame, saccharin
Self-reported hyperactivity, attention, etc.
No effects noted

Image source: http://thedreamdepository.blogspot.


(Wolraich, 1994)

Initial Concerns
1997 Study:

Compared subjects with and without brain tumors

Both groups consumed equal amounts of artificial

no correlation between consumption of artificial sugars

and tumor risk
(Gurney, et al., 1997)

So are artificial sweeteners harmful?


Taste Perception


image sources: https://especha.wordpress.com/, https://en.wikipedia.

org/wiki/Taste, http://chemistry.about.com/od/factsstructures/ig/ChemicalStructures---S/Sucrose.htm


Taste Pathway
Sensory Neural pathway activated while eating
Sensory Neurons Brain Regions
- Gustatory cortex (taste perception)
- Caudate, Striatum (reward pathway)
Food quality, reward, and satisfaction

image source: http://wine4soul.com/2013/03/16/sense-oftaste-and-wine/


Sugar & the Brain

How does regular vs. artificial sugar
affect brain activity?
fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance
Imaging) Studies

Image from: http://mic.com/articles/88015/what-happens-to-your-brain-on-sugar-explained-by-science#.



Artificial Sugar & the Brain

Study 1 Methods
- 12 women given sucrose /
sucralose ( of equal
concentration) in separate
- 1g sucralose = 20g sucrose
- fMRI to observe brain
What would you expect?
image source:


Artificial Sugar & the Brain

Study 1 Results

Reward Centers (Satisfaction)


(Frank, et al. 2008)


Artificial Sugar & the Brain

Study 2 Methods:
24 young adults aged 19-32
Split in half into diet vs non-diet soda drinkers
Went on 12-hour fast from sucrose
(Green, et al., 2012)



Image taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saccharin

Image taken from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saccharose2.svg

Artificial Sugar & the Brain

(Green, et al, 2012)


These findings suggest altogether that regular consumption of artificial sugars may be
related to alterations in the reward experience
Long term effects?


Type 2 Diabetes

San Antonio Heart Study

Worsens insulin sensitivity
Promotes weight gain

Gut microbiota


Nonnutritive Sweeteners and Gut microbiota

Study revealed NAS has a deleterious effect on gut microbiota

NAS induced metabolic pathways leading to glucose intolerance and susceptibility
to metabolic disease (e.g. diabetes)
Germ-free mice inoculated with microbiota from NAS-fed mice became more
glucose tolerant than mice inoculated with normal gut microbiota (Suez 2014).

Image taken from http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/mmg-233-2013-geneticsgenomics/images/0/0c/4441009a-f1.2.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20131115224206


Image taken from http:



What does this mean?

Causal role of NAS in glucose intolerance leading to metabolic
Specific microbial composition predisposed hosts to NAS
More investigation needed to establish this susceptibility

NAS may select against certain microbes and inhibit them

NAS could be direct stimulants of certain organisms

More investigation is needed to uncover the mechanism



Non-nutritive sweeteners are one of the most widely used food additives
Many studies have been done that call for the reassessment of the safety of
artificial sweeteners
Great short-term alternative for use in high-calorie products
Long-term safety in question
Adverse effects on the brain and body (long-term)

Image taken from http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/files/2014/11/minions-microbes1.png


Position on Artificial Sweeteners

ADA and AND: fine to use in the diet.

Artificial sweeteners can curb sweet cravings (ADA, 2014)

Can safely be consumed with a balanced diet/eating plan (AND, 2012)

Image from: http://www.highlandhosp.


Image from: eatright.org


Thoughts/Questions for the Future

With the new food labeling regulations requiring products to
state how much added sugar is in their food, will there be
pressure to label the amount of artificial sweeteners?
Is the newly approved artificial sweetener advantame safe?
Should there be more awareness surrounding the
neurological effects of artificial sweeteners?


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