Sugar substitutes may interfere with liver’s ability to detoxify, researchers say

Turns out, all that (fake) sugar, ain’t so sweet.

A new study done by the Medical College of Wisconsin has revealed that two sugar substitutes can impact the protein in the liver that helps detoxify the organ.

These sweet substitutes — also known as non-nutritive sweeteners — could negatively influence metabolizing drugs such as blood pressure medications and antidepressants.

The research discovered that these sugar-in-disguise-sweeteners are used as additives in certain medications and foods to give them a sweet taste without all the calories.

“With an estimated 40% of Americans regularly consuming non-nutritive sweeteners, it’s important to understand how they affect the body,” Laura Danner, a doctoral student at the college said in a statement regarding the new study.

She explained, “In fact, many people don’t realize that these sweeteners are found in light or zero-sugar versions of yogurts and snack foods and even in non-food products like liquid medicines and certain cosmetics.”

Artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than table sugar and it takes a smaller amount of the substitutes to give the same degree of sweetness to foods. Common processed foods that contain sugar subs include Splenda, diet sodas, certain “sugar-free”-labeled delicacies and several “keto” packaged products.

The study took a gander at substances such as non-nutritive sweeteners, acesulfame potassium and sucralose to determine how they break down liver cells. The scientists noticed that acesulfame potassium and sucralose interrupted the process of protein in the body called P-glycoprotein (PGP).

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Diet Coke uses ingredients such as aspartame and acesulfame K.
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PGP pushes out toxins from the cells and aids in the transport to drain the body of drugs, foreign substances and drug metabolites. The study also disclosed that these fake sweeteners revitalize activity in the body and strap themselves to PGP.

This can cause friction with the transport of other drugs throughout the system and can leave several medications trapped in cells which can ultimately lead to liver toxicity.

Researcher Stephanie Olivier Van Stichelen, Ph.D., was at the helm of the report and “observed that sweeteners impacted PGP activity in liver cells at concentrations expected through consumption of common foods and beverages.” She added that this is “far below the recommended FDA maximum limits.”

She also noted, “To our knowledge, we are the first group to decipher the molecular mechanism by which non-nutritive sweeteners impact detoxification in the liver.”

For people who take blood pressure medications, antidepressants and antibiotics, the meds rely on PGP as a primary detoxification transporter.

“If future studies confirm that non-nutritive sweeteners impair the body’s detoxification process, it would be essential to study the potential interactions and determine safe levels of consumption for at-risk groups,” Danner stated in her research.

She continued, “It might also be important to include specific amounts non-nutritive sweeteners included on food labels so that people can better track their intake.”


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