Sweet Nothings

Nothing gets nutritionists more aroused than artificial sweeteners. The internet is full of websites spewing a toxic mix of hatred and misinformation, run by all manner of strange people; but very few of them scientists, and very few of them able to make any sense of the data they have. I don’t really want to start another flame war but if aspartame did even half of the bad things the more wild-eyed folk say it does, our armed forces would be deploying it as a cut-price biological weapon. (And no, it does not cause cancer, nor does it ‘shred’ your taste buds ….) 

The same wild-eyed visionaries who originally railed against saccharine moved on seamlessly to shouting at cyclamates, and when these were replaced by aspartame they promptly became virulent anti-aspartans. Now many of these same individuals are warning against the hazards of sucralose which, they tell us, is processed using nerve gas! I suspect that what motivates them is a kind of gastro-puritanism - they hate the idea of the pleasure of sweetness without some sort of pain. They used to promote stevia extract when it tasted vile; now that it has been purified to give a clean sweet taste, how long before they start to rail against over-processed stevia? 

Here, just to spite these doom-sayers, is news about an unexpected possible health benefit of sucralose. 

New research from the USA indicates that sucralose may work together with glucose to stimulate the release of a protein that promotes a feeling of fullness, and could help to prevent over-eating (Brown et al ‘10). Neither sweetener had any effect on its own, but when combined they triggered the release of the appetite-suppressing hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). Further research will undoubtedly be done, and if subsequent work shows similar outcomes I would expect new, appetite-suppressing foods and beverages appearing by early 2011.


R.J. Brown RJ, Walter M, Rother KI. Ingestion of Diet Soda Before a Glucose Load Augments Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Secretion. Diabetes Care. 2009 Dec;32(12):2184-6

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