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High Doses of Saccharin Does Not Increase Diabetes Risk

A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial is providing insight into the effects of saccharin use on the development of diabetes and glucose absorption in healthy patients.

With artificial sweeteners being used now more than ever, new research suggesting high doses of saccharin does not lead to development of diabetes in healthy adults provides valuable insight to clinicians.

The study, which was led by investigators at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and The Ohio State University College of Medicine, assessed effects of saccharin consumption over 2 weeks and found consumption did not alter gut microbiota or induce glucose intolerance.

"It's not that the findings of previous studies are wrong, they just didn't adequately control for things like underlying health conditions, diet choices and lifestyle habits," said lead investigator George Kyriazis, PhD, assistant professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State, in a statement. "By studying the artificial sweetener saccharin in healthy adults, we've isolated its effects and found no change in participants' gut microbiome or their metabolic profiles, as it was previously suggested."

With popularity of non-caloric artificial sweeteners continuing to grow, Kyriazis and a team of colleagues from institutions across the US sought to evaluate the impact of saccharin in a randomized, placebo-controlled fashion. To do so, investigators designed their study as a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study where patients were randomized to placebo, saccharin, lactisole (STR inhibitor), or saccharin with lactisole administered in capsules twice daily to achieve the maximum acceptable daily intake for 2 weeks.

In total, 54 patients were recruited for the study and underwent randomization into 2 of the 4 groups, but 8 were excluded due to noncompliance—leaving 46 patients for the final analysis. All patients included in the trial were considered healthy adults, aged 18-45 years, and had body mass indexes of 25 or less. Additionally, these patients were free from acute or chronic medical conditions and were not taking any medications that could affect metabolic function.

Upon analysis, investigators found none of the interventions impacted glucose 0or hormonal responses to an oral glucose tolerance test. Further, results indicated saccharin supplementation did not alter microbial diversity or composition at any taxonomic level in study participants.

Investigators also conducted a parallel study in mice over a 10-week period. Results of that study indicated none of the interventions impact glucose absorption in mice. Additionally, supplementation did not appear to alter microbial diversity or composition at any taxonomic level and no effects were observed in readouts of microbial activity.

"Previous studies elsewhere have suggested that consuming artificial sweeteners is associated with metabolic syndrome, weight gain, obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. These findings have raised concerns that consuming them may lead to adverse public health outcomes, and a lack of well-controlled interventional studies contributed to the confusion," said study investigator Joan Serrano, a researcher in the department of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State, in the aforementioned statement.

This study, “High-dose saccharin supplementation does not induce gut microbiota changes or glucose intolerance in healthy humans and mice,” was published in Microbiome.