- Aspartame is an artificial sugar substitute found in certain foods and beverages.
- Sugar substitute may not promote weight loss.
- Aspartame was found to increase blood sugar levels and inflammatory proteins.
Sugar substitute aspartame may not promote weight loss, reveals a study from Massachusetts General Hospital.
The study report was published online in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism
‘Possible mechanisms behind sugar substitute found to be ineffective for promoting weight loss.’
The research team finds how phenyl alanine (a breakdown product of aspartame) interferes with the activity of the enzyme that prevents metabolic syndrome.
The research study conducted on mice which have received aspartame in their drinking water was found to gain more weight and develop other metabolic syndrome symptoms when compared to other animals which did not take any aspartame.
Richard Hodin, MD, of the MGH Department of Surgery, said that "Sugar substitutes like aspartame are designed to promote weight loss and decrease the incidence of metabolic syndrome, but some clinical and epidemiologic studies have suggested that these products don't work very well and may actually make things worse."
"We found that aspartame blocks a gut enzyme called intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP) that we previously showed can prevent obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome; so we think that aspartame might not work because, even as it is substituting for sugar, it blocks the beneficial aspects of IAP." he added.
The previous study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2013 showed intestinal alkaline phosphatase enzyme fed mice on high - fat diet was found to reduce symptoms and prevent metabolic syndrome.
Phenylalanine which is produced from aspartame was found to inhibit the action of the intestinal alkaline phosphatase enzyme and this led to the investigation of the inhibitory properties of aspartame for lack of weight-loss effect.
Intestinal alkaline phosphate enzyme is produced in the small intestine. By conducting some experiments, the research team found the activity of the enzyme to be reduced when it was added to a solution containing aspartame sweetened soft drink compared to a sugar containing beverage.
Four groups of mice were taken for the study, out of which two groups took normal diet in which one received aspartame drinking water and the other received plain water. The remaining two groups received high-fat diet similarly one with aspartame and other with plain water.
The study results found animals fed with normal diet and which received aspartame to have consumed an amount equivalent to three and half cans of diet soda daily and the group which received high-fat diet consumed an equivalent of about two cans.
There was only a little difference between weights of the animals in the two groups with normal diet and animals on high-fat diet who received aspartame gained more weight than those that received plain water.
In both the groups, aspartame received mice were found to have high blood sugar levels and higher levels of inflammatory protein TNFα in their blood.
Hodin, professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School said that "People do not really understand why these artificial sweeteners don't work. There has been some evidence that they actually can make you more hungry and may be associated with increased calorie consumption. Our findings regarding aspartame's inhibition of IAP may help explain why the use of aspartame is counterproductive."
"While we can't rule out other contributing mechanisms, our experiments clearly show that aspartame blocks IAP activity, independent of other effects." he added.