Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Artificial Sweeteners Are Bad For You?

A clutch of new studies published in Nature suggest artificial sweeteners might contribute to obesity and diabetes or as the Wall Street Journal so elegantly phrased it "trigger unwanted changes." At least some people appear more at risk but who can tell with news coverage like this:
The scientists performed a multitude of experiments, mostly on mice, to back up their assertion that the sweeteners alter the microbiome, the population of bacteria that is in the digestive system. New York Times
Multitude of experiments? (i.e...... 4).

Mostly on mice. 

Scientists doing studies to back  up their assertions. (As opposed to studies that don't back up their assertions.)

Microbiome (i.e. instant credibility, instant anxiety for you and me). 

The experts must have some grand theory if not evidence as to why fake sugar wrecks havoc with gut bacteria:
Researchers aren't sure about the exact mechanisms causing the imbalance in the gut bacteria populations. Wall Street Journal
At present, the scientists cannot explain how the sweeteners affect the bacteria or why the three different molecules of saccharin, aspartame and sucralose result in similar changes in the glucose metabolism. New York Times 
NBC News wrote about bacterias Bacteroides and Clostridiales, as if you or I care, but proceeded to dispense with all science and reason in the headline: 
How Can Diet Sodas Make You Fat? Study May Explain It. 
Some study indeed might explain it but not this one.   

I should cut the media a break because even Nature, the organization that published the study, forgot what the study really studied:
Sugar substitutes linked to obesity. Nature 
They forgot the study assessed gut bacteria, not obesity. Thank goodness they didn't drag out diet soda too. 

USA Today didn't stop at obesity, diabetes or even artificial sweeteners. They couldn't resist giving an expert the chance to haul out other public health nuisances:
In trying to understand why certain diseases like food allergies and diabetes have been increasing, Nagler said she looks to things that change gut microbes, such as the introduction of antibiotics, changes in diet, Cesarean-section births, the introduction of formula and the elimination of infectious diseases. Cathryn Nagler, University of Chicago
Girlfriend got cut off before mentioning screen time, cyber-bulling and early puberty. In any event there seems to be a growing consensus among experts that artificial sweeteners should be taken off the shelf:
“I think the validity of the human study is questionable.” - Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.  New York Times
An unbiased expert? 

Reuters had to go all the way to Glasgow to dig up an expert who wasn't very impressed: 
"Animal data for many experiments do not show the same effect in humans, which can sometimes be quite the opposite," and "current epidemiological data in humans do not support a meaningful link between diet drinks and risk for diabetes, whereas sugar rich beverages do appear to be associated with higher diabetes risk." - Naveed Sattar, University of Glasgow
Favorite new public health term: unsupervised use of artificial sweeteners.

FNPHT: Courtesy of lead author, Eran Elinav, a physician-immunologist at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, via Wall Street Journal. 

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