Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad for You?

A new study on artificial sweeteners has people wondering whether they should rethink their consumption of the popular products.

Specifically, the study, published in the journal Nature, suggests low-calorie sweeteners have an adverse effect on blood sugar levels, possibly because they alter the ecosystem of gut bacteria. The researchers found that low-calorie sweeteners increased the risk of glucose intolerance, which can lead to diabetes.

We wanted to know more about what these research findings may mean for consumers, so we asked Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD to help us digest the details of the research.

What can you tell us about this new research?


The study was primarily conducted in mice along with a small sample of humans – seven, to be exact. And many nutrition experts say the study doesn’t provide evidence that these results in mice can be applied directly to human health. Additionally, the small sample of human subjects means the results can’t be applied to broad populations of people.

Have there been other studies on this subject? If so, did they reach the same conclusions?


A great deal of existing research shows low-calorie sweeteners do not adversely impact glucose or insulin levels. And investigators of more than 40 studies in people, including a recent meta-analysis of clinical trials and other available evidence, concluded that the use of low-calorie sweeteners does not lead to either an increased risk of obesity or diabetes.

The study’s researchers said their findings are “preliminary and shouldn’t be taken as a recommendation on whether people should reconsider using artificial sweeteners.” So what should people do with these findings?


Leading health organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association, as well as numerous scientific studies, agree that low-calorie sweeteners can be used to help manage calorie intake, which, in turn, can be helpful for both weight management and diabetes management.

Sugar tong in sugar” by Patrik Nygren is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.