September 17, 2014
Intriguing findings in a paper published in Nature raise serious questions about the effect of saccharin and possibly other artificial sweeteners on the microbial world inside our digestive tracts and the resulting impact on blood sugar and metabolism. What these chemicals do in our gut deserves further study. But consumers already have ample reason to avoid saccharin and aspartame, and reason to be cautious about sucralose, primarily because of evidence from animal studies that they may cause cancer.
However, it would be a mistake to conclude that diet sodas are worse than drinks sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, and no diet-soda drinker should interpret the new study as license to switch to regular soda. The study does not overturn the best studies that show that people who drink diet soda don’t have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes (unlike people who drink regular soda), and that people are more likely to gain weight on sugar-sweetened than diet beverages. These risks from sugar drinks far out-weigh the new concerns raised today about artificial sweeteners.