E-Mail Edition  Volume 11   Number 4

Published Fall, 2014

Published by Piccadilly Books, Ltd., www.piccadillybooks.com.

Bruce Fife, N.D., Publisher, www.coconutresearchcenter.org

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  • New Zealand Heart Foundation Wages War On Coconut Oil

  • Seven Ways Coconut Oil Fights Obesity

  • Artificial Sweeteners May Cause Diabetes and Obesity







New Zealand Heart Foundation Wages War On Coconut Oil

The anti-saturated fat, anti-coconut oil fanatics are at it again. This time the New Zealand Heart Foundation is taking a swing at coconut oil.



The New Zealand Heart Foundation just released a 26 page report titled "Coconut Oil and the Heart." Laurence Eyres, PhD, a food scientist who specializes in producing vegetable oil and margarine products, was commissioned by the New Zealand Heart Foundation to write the report in response to the growing popularity of coconut oil in New Zealand and to answer questions about its effect on heart health.  This report summarizes the Heart Foundation's position regarding coconut oil in regards to heart health.











One thing you need to keep in mind is that this is not a study, but a report stating the Heart Foundation's position on coconut oil. It presents no new evidence regarding coconut oil's effect on cardiovascular health, but only summarizes a few select studies in view of preconceived beliefs on saturated fat and cholesterol.

Not too surprisingly, the Heart Foundation's view mimics the position taken by the pharmaceutical industry regarding heart health—cardiovascular disease is caused by high blood cholesterol as a consequence of eating too much saturated fat and cholesterol. Since dietary and lifestyle changes (eating less fat and cholesterol and exercising more) have proven to have only a minor effect on blood cholesterol, these changes must invariably include cholesterol-lowering drugs in order to prevent heart attacks and strokes. The Heart Foundation supports the view that anyone with total cholesterol over 200 mg/dl should be on cholesterol-lowering drugs and even children as young as 10 years of age who may possibly be at risk of developing heart disease when they get older, should be taking the drugs as a precautionary measure. Unsaturated vegetables oils, like soybean, corn, and safflower oils, should replace most saturated oils in the diet.

The paper focuses its attention solely on cardiovascular heath. All other health issues and effects coconut oil may have on brain health, blood sugar, digestive function, obesity, immune function, and such, are ignored.

One of the first things this paper attempts to do is to separate all of the many studies on medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) from those on coconut oil. Although coconut oil is composed predominately of MCTs and the health effects of coconut oil are governed by its MCT content, the author claims this isn't valid. The reason he gives is that lauric acid, the primary MCT in coconut oil (comprising 45-48 percent), is not a legitimate MCT. In his opinion, it is a long chain triglyceride (LCT). Therefore, none of the many studies using MCTs can be extended to coconut oil.

His proof that lauric acid should not be classified as an MCT is that oils rich in lauric acid (i.e., coconut oil) in the diet do not reduce total cholesterol as much as unsaturated vegetables oils do, and so, in this respect coconut oil acts more like a long chain saturated fat. Therefore, lauric acid should be classified as a LCT.

However, nearly all researchers over the past 70 years have classified lauric acid as a MCT, and rightly so. Its physiological effects on the body are the same as other MCTs (caprylic and capric acids). Like other MCTs it is absorbed by the portal vein and sent to the liver where it is metabolized into energy. This is completely different from LCTs that journey to the intestinal tract and are packaged into lipoproteins and released into the bloodstream. Lauric acid possesses potent antimicrobial properties, it can diffuse across cell membranes without the aid of insulin, is absorbed by the mitochondria without the need of any enzymes, and is easily converted into ketone bodies, all unique characteristics of MCTs.

Because he claims lauric acid to be a LCT, all studies using MCTs are disqualified from his analysis, he also dismisses the vast majority of studies on coconut oil itself because the studies either did not evaluate cardiovascular disease specifically, were reports from conference proceedings, included test subjects with specific health conditions (e.g., liver disease, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, etc.), the outcomes such as cholesterol levels and heart disease risk were a minor part of the overall study results, they investigated the effects of lauric acid rather than coconut oil, they evaluated diets or feeding formulas rather than coconut oil specifically, and a number of other conditions.

When the author eliminated all of these studies, he was left with only 10 studies that fit his specific criteria, which essentially were those studies that measured blood cholesterol levels of select individuals consuming coconut oil. These studies also included hydrogenated coconut oil, because the author felt there was no significant difference between it and natural coconut oil. This is a huge assumption, since hydrogenated oils in general are definitely associated with a number of health problems including heart disease. However, this belief is not unexpected coming from a person who has spent his career developing margarines and other products loaded with hydrogenated vegetable oils.

The author briefly summarizes each study concluding that in nearly every case subjects consuming coconut oil (or hydrogenated coconut oil) had increased total or LDL cholesterol levels when compared to those subject consuming polyunsaturated vegetable oils. None of the studies actually evaluated the incidence of heart disease, degree of atherosclerosis in the arteries, blood pressure, heart function, or any real indicator of heart disease risk. Only cholesterol levels were measured with the assumption that increased total or LDL cholesterol automatically meant the same as increased risk of heart disease.

The fact that coconut oil increased HDL, the good cholesterol, was mostly overlooked. HDL cholesterol is believed to protect against heart disease so a higher level is a good thing. When HDL is increased, without changing anything else, total cholesterol increases. Therefore, total cholesterol values that include both HDL and LDL in the total are meaningless.

Then Dr. Eyres, criticizes coconut oil for increasing LDL cholesterol in some of the studies. The New Zealand Heart Foundation undoubtedly chose Dr. Eyres to write this paper because he is an accomplished scientist and knows all about cholesterol and fats. However, Eyres never bothers to explain that there are two types of LDL cholesterol, one which is large and fluffy and the other, which is small and dense. The large fluffy LDL is considered essential for our health, it is another form of "good" cholesterol. The small, dense LDL is oxidized and damaged and is considered the bad cholesterol and can actually damage artery walls. The good LDL cholesterol is the type that is an important component of the membranes of every cell in our bodies, it forms the myelin sheath around our nerve and brain cells, it's used to make bile that is necessary for proper fat digestion and nutrient absorption, many of our hormones (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, etc.) are made from it, and it is also the source of almost all of the highly important vitamin D in our bodies. This type of LDL cholesterol is essential for health. This is the type of LDL cholesterol that the body synthesizes from saturated fats and other nutrients, including coconut oil.

Small dense LDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is formed when the large LDL cholesterol is oxidized and becomes damaged. We can eat oxidized LDL cholesterol in our foods—primarily highly processed oxidized foods like powdered whole milk—or it can form inside our bodies. It is created when cholesterol is exposed to free radicals. It is not formed by eating saturated fat or from the conversion of fats into cholesterol by the liver. The liver does not produce damaged cholesterol (poisons) to kill itself.

All lipid researchers are familiar with these two types of LDL cholesterol, the public is gradually becoming aware of them too as more books and articles are now discussing them. Being an expert in lipid metabolism, Dr. Eyres, must be well aware of the different types of cholesterol, yet he purposely misleads readers into believing there is no difference, that both are equivalent. This is pure scientific dishonesty. He is intentionally misleading readers in order to cast coconut oil as a villain.

The report states that the New Zealand Heart Foundation recommends the use of polyunsaturated vegetable oils over coconut oil or other highly saturated fats. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils are chemically very unstable. When they are exposed to heat, light, or oxygen, they spontaneously oxidize (i.e., become rancid) and produce destructive free radicals. Polyunsaturated oils start going rancid in the factory when they are extracted from the seeds. This process continues during bottling, storage, shipping, and while they sit on grocery store shelves. If you use them for cooking, the oxidation process is greatly accelerated. It is these oxidized oils that when consumed, cause good LDL cholesterol to become oxidized and become bad. Coconut oil has nothing to do with it. Ironically, the type of oil the Heart Foundation recommends is actually the type that can cause the most harm!

If you believe everything that Dr. Eyres says in this report, then the conclusion you must come to is that most heart attack and stoke deaths occurring in the world today are caused by eating coconut oil. There are literally hundreds of millions of people in the world who eat coconut and coconut oil every single day. Since heart disease is the number one killer worldwide, most of these deaths must be occurring in the coconut growing regions of the world where coconut makes up a significant part of the diet. However, in areas of the world where people eat a lot of coconut, heart disease is relatively low. In fact, those populations that consume the most coconut and coconut oil, have the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.

In Papua New Guinea, for example, the people living in the rural communities rely on coconut oil as the primary source of fat in their diets, yet Dr. Staffan Lindeberg and colleagues at the University of Lund Sweden have found that heart disease does not exist among them. Heart disease is not just rare, it does not exist at all, so says Dr. Lindeberg. Even in the oldest members of the population who live to be nearly 100 years of age, they show no signs of heart disease. These people have been eating coconut oil nearly every day of their lives for close to 100 years. If consuming coconut daily for 100 years doesn't cause heart disease, then it is safe to say it never will.

Even eating large amounts of coconut oil appears harmless. Dr Ian Prior and colleagues at the University of Auckland reported in the 1980s that some Pacific island communities consume up to 50 percent of their diet as saturated fat, mostly from coconuts. Yet, these people were totally free from heart disease, as well as diabetes, obesity, cancer, and most other chronic disease common in our society.

It is interesting to note that in the 1980s the American Soybean Association and its friends (The American Heart Association, the National Heart Savers Association, and others) waged an anti-saturated fat, anti-tropical oils campaign in North America. They used the same old argument that saturated fats raise cholesterol so they must all be harmful artery-clogging fats that promote heart disease. Soybean oil and other polyunsaturated vegetable oils (including hydrogenated soybean oil) should replace all saturated fats in the diet. At that time, the smear campaign was very successful in installing fear in the public against saturated fats and coconut oil. You can read more about this campaign here. As a consequence, saturated fats have been shunned ever since. Only recently, as new studies have come forward, are saturated fats being exonerated and given the respect they deserve and polyunsaturated and hydrogenated vegetable oils are being recognized as the health hazards that they truly are.

As the New Zealand Heart Foundation's report circulates around the world, it will no doubt be used as evidence that coconut oil is unhealthy and promotes heart disease. You may hear people criticize coconut oil and point to this paper as the definitive source for their argument. However, now that you've read this article and know the facts, you won't be deceived.








Seven Ways Coconut Oil Fights Obesity



"Over the last 20 years I have been steadily and gradually gaining weight," says Sharon Maas. "You couldn't call me fat—but there I was, just too wobbly in all the wrong places. This year I decided to do something about it—finally I went on a fruit diet. Nothing happened. I tried the cabbage soup diet (without the meat). Nothing happened. I fasted for a week nothing happened!"

It was at this time that Sharon stumbled upon coconut oil and how good it was for the body. "I stopped fasting and began eating food again, but using coconut oil," she says. "After a few days I weighed myself—I had lost 5 pounds! Since then I have lost a total of 24 pounds, and still losing steadily at about a pound a week, enjoying full meals."

Obesity waist circumference, Wikimedia Commons





The Coconut Ketogenic Diet

by Dr. Bruce Fife

Available from Piccadilly Books, Ltd.

click here







Have you ever tried to lose weight following any of the weight loss programs promoted in the media or even those recommended by your doctor? Did any of them work? If you are still overweight, then apparently it did not work, at least in the long run. People can lose a few pounds on most of these diets temporarily, but to keep the weight off permanently takes a radically different approach.

One thing most all of these diets have in common is that they eliminate as much fat as possible. Sharon tried various low-fat diets that were promoted as the answer to everyone's weight problems but they all failed. Only when she added fat into her diet did she begin to lose weight and lose it with little effort. She lost more weight eating full meals, with the addition of coconut oil, than she did when she was on a complete fast consuming no calories at all. How could this be? Aren't fats fattening? Doesn't eating fat promote weight gain? That's what we've been told for many years. That is the philosophy we have been fed for years, but could it be wrong?

The truth is, you need fat in your diet to lose excess weight and keep it off. Coconut oil in particular, can help you shed those extra pounds, slim those thighs, and trim that belly. For years people have assumed that eating fat promotes weight gain. However, when you eat coconut oil just the opposite happens. If you are overweight, coconut oil has a sliming effect. There are seven major reasons why coconut oil can help keep you slim and trim.


1) Satiety

Coconut oil is very effective in satisfying hunger, much more than other foods. When coconut oil is added to a meal you fill satisfied sooner so you tend to eat less during the meal. You stay full longer afterwards and have less of a desire to want to snack between meals. People often say how coconut oil helps curb their cravings for sugar and sweets. Hunger is delayed longer, so that when the next meal comes along you are not so famished that you gorge yourself and overeat, but eat a normal amount. By adding coconut oil into your foods, you tend to eat less and consume fewer calories. Even though coconut oil provides more calories than carbohydrates and protein, adding it into your diet will help you cut down on total food consumption so that you end up eating fewer calories—without feeling hungry!

Probably the biggest hurdle dieter's face when they go on weight loss diets is the constant hunger and discomfort they experience when they cut down on their food consumption. When you add coconut oil into your diet, you feel full sooner and remain satisfied longer, thus eliminating the feeling that you are always starving or being deprived. When you feel full, you are less likely to be tempted by unhealthy foods. Maintaining your diet is easier and more successful.


2) Does not accumulate as body fat

One of the unique features that separates coconut oil from other dietary fats is the way it is digested and metabolized. When most fats are consumed they pass through the stomach mostly intact. It is in the intestinal tract where the vast majority of fat digestion takes place. Here they are broken down into fatty acids (individual fat molecules) and absorbed into the intestinal wall. From here they are channeled into the bloodstream where they are distributed throughout the body for various uses. One of those uses is to store energy by being absorbed into our fat cells. As our fat cells grow in size, so do we.

The MCFAs in coconut oil, however, do not follow this path. Coconut oil breaks down into individual fatty acids so easily and quickly that as soon as they pass through the stomach they are immediately absorbed into the portal vein and sent directly to liver. In the liver they are burned to produce energy, therefore, they contribute very little to the fat that accumulates throughout our bodies. Coconut oil is converted into energy, not stored as body fat so it does not contribute to weight gain.


3) Produces Energy

When the fatty acids in coconut oil are burned, you get a surge of energy that can last for several hours. This heightened level of energy encourages and motivates increased physical activity. As you become more active, you burn off more calories as the following two individuals can attest.

"Since I have been using coconut oil in place of other oils I find I have loads more energy compared to before," says Sue. "I used to run out of energy about four hours after waking, I felt terrible. Now, I have energy to last the whole day."

Barbara says, "My energy level has increased dramatically to the point where I am willing to exercise to videotapes every day—a new thing for me and desperately needed."


4) Boosts Metabolism

As a consequence of the increased energy production created from the burning of the MCFAs, metabolism is kicked up into a higher gear. Your metabolism begins running at an accelerated pace. As metabolism increases, the rate at which calories are burned increases. The more calories you burn, the more weight you lose.

This increase in metabolism doesn't last for just one or two hours after a meal. Studies show that after a single meal containing MCFAs, metabolism is elevated and remains elevated for a full 24 hours. During this entire time you will have a higher level of energy and you will be burning calories at an accelerated rate—what a marvelous weight loss aid!


5) Improved Thyroid Function

Low thyroid function or hypothyroidism is a major problem in our society and a major contributing factor to weight gain. The thyroid gland controls our metabolism. If you have a sluggish thyroid, your metabolism will be depressed. Those people with low thyroid function gain weight easily and have a very difficult time losing weight.

Since coconut oil boosts the body's metabolism it also boosts thyroid gland function. As the thyroid becomes more active, it stimulates whole body metabolism, which also supports thyroid function. In a sense, coconut oil kick starts a sluggish thyroid so that it functions more normally on its own.

If you are taking thyroid medication it is recommended that you have your thyroid function monitored by your doctor when you starting using coconut oil. As thyroid function improves, your medication can be reduced or even discontinued.

Some people who take thyroid hormone medication for low thyroid function have reported that when they started using coconut oil regularly that their thyroid became too active bringing on symptoms of hyperthyroidism. However, coconut oil cannot cause hyperthyroidism. Coconut oil supports thyroid health and helps it to function more normally. It cannot force the thyroid to become overactive. It is the medication that can cause the thyroid to become hyperactive. Simply reducing the dose of the medication will solve the problem.


6) Activate Fat Burning Enzymes

One of the major reasons why low-fat diets are doomed to failure is that they stimulate fat production and storage. Low-fat diets activate fat making enzymes (lipoprotein lipase). Our bodies need fat. Fat is an essential building block for various hormones and tissues. Every cell in your body requires fat to make the cell membranes that surrounds our cells. The less fat you eat, the more fat your body tries to make and pack away into storage (on your belly and hips).

If your body does not get enough fat from the foods you eat, it will make its own out of whatever foods are in your diet. So a diet of non-fat milk and yogurt, lean meat, and low-fat vegetables will be transformed into fat and stored. You will get less nutrition from these foods because they will be converted into fat that is locked away in your fat tissues.

A high-fat diet deactivates these fat making enzymes. If the fat in the foods you eat supplies all of the fats your body requires, then no fat is stored and no weight is gained, even when you eat an excess amount of fat. Think about that for a moment. Eating ample amounts of fat will not contribute to weight gain, but eating too little fat will. The less fat you eat, the more fat your body makes and packs away into storage.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School divided test subjects into two groups, each consumed the same total number of calories, however, one group ate a moderately high-fat diet (35%) and the other a low-fat diet (20%). The diet was not designed for weight loss, but just to evaluate the differences in fat consumption. After 18 months, the low-fat group grained an average of 6 pounds while the high-fat group lost an average of 9 pounds—a 15 pound difference!

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a head-to-head study in 2007 comparing the Atkins (high fat), Zone (moderate fat), Ornish (very low-fat) and LEARN (low-fat with exercise) diets. Atkins came out the clear winner. The Atkins group lost more weight, had lower cholesterol, blood sugar, body fat, triglycerides, blood pressure, and higher HDL--all parameters indicating improved health.


7) Resists Diet Induced Drop in Metabolism

One of the major flaws with low-fat, calorie restricted diets is the elimination of fat. Fat is actually a weight loss aid. When you go on a low-fat, reduced calorie diet, your body instinctively interprets this as a famine. To preserve life during the famine, the body shifts its metabolism into low gear. Lower metabolism means you can live on fewer calories and fewer nutrients, thus prolonging your life until the famine is over. This is natural survival instinct programmed into each and every one of us.

When you go on a low-fat diet you will lose weight for the first couple of weeks while your metabolism is still running at its normal rate. However, as your body senses a continued reduction in food consumption your metabolism will begin to slow down. As metabolism slows down, weight loss slows down too. To continue to lose weight, you must reduce your food intake even more. The more you reduce your food intake, the lower your metabolism drops. You must eat less and less food to keep losing weight. When you first start the diet you can lose weight by reducing your total calorie intake by just a couple of hundred calories a day. Over time however, you will need to reduce your calorie intake by 400, 600, 800 calories a day or more. This is why some people can eat as little as 800 calories a day and still gain weight. When you consider the fact that we need about 1600 calories a day just to maintain basic body functions like breathing and circulating blood, 800 calories a day is literally a state of starvation. The only way the body can keep from starving to death is to suppress metabolism to a snail's pace. Dieting becomes a struggle accompanied by constant hunger pangs, and often fatigue, irritability, and depression.

When you finally do give up the diet and start to eat more, it takes awhile for the body to recognize that the famine is over and for your normal metabolism to recover. Even though you are eating more food, your metabolism is still depressed, so all those excess calories you are now eating are immediately converted into fat and packed away into your hips, thighs, and belly. Because it takes time for metabolism to rebound, before you know it, all of your weight comes right back, and along with it comes a few extra pounds for good measure. Since the diet didn't work, you will probably try it again. However, the next time the same thing happens, you lose a few pounds at first but eventually end up gaining even more weight when it is all over. Doctors have a name for this, it's called diet induced obesity. This is one reason why low-fat diets don't work. Low-fat diets actually cause weight gain and obesity! If you've ever tried to lose weight using a low-fat, calorie restricted diet, you've been a victim of diet induced obesity.

Adding coconut oil into your diet program can eliminate this problem. If you go on a reduced calorie diet but include plenty of coconut oil, your metabolism will remain elevated the entire time. When you include coconut oil into a weight loss diet, the body interprets this as: food is abundant and the hunting is good, there is no famine. Even when total calories are restricted, if you include an adequate amount of fat the body does not shift its metabolism into low gear. Consequently, metabolism remains high and weight comes off easily. You can reduce your total calorie intake by just a couple of hundred calories a day and see continued weight loss the entire time you remain on the diet. You are not forced to keep reducing your calorie intake to lose weight. When you do begin to eat more calories, you do not experience weight gain because your metabolism was never depressed, instead of gaining weight, you simply stop losing it. Of course, if you start stuffing yourself with cakes and donuts, you will gain weight, but if you eat sensibly, the weight will stay off permanently.



As you can see, adding a healthy dose of coconut oil into your diet can have a significant impact on your weight loss efforts. Some people report weight loss by simply adding coconut oil into their normal diets. Most people, however, aren't so lucky. Your eating habits can influence the effect coconut oil has on your weight. If you eat sugary cereal for breakfast every morning and snack on candy bars and donuts during the day, adding coconut oil to your otherwise poor diet will not have much effect on weight loss. Coconut oil works best when it is combined with a sensible eating plan. A low-carb, high-fat, ketogenic diet, where coconut oil constitutes the primary source of fat, is the most effective weight loss program available. My book The Coconut Ketogenic Diet describes how to combine the unique metabolic advantage of both coconut oil and ketones to supercharge your metabolism, revitalize low thyroid function, stimulate the production of fat burning enzymes, and lose excess weight easily without being hungry.












Artificial Sweeteners May Cause Diabetes and Obesity


Artificial sweeteners have long been recommended as healthier alternatives to sugar. When artificial sweeteners were invented they seemed like a dream come true. They have no calories so there is nothing to be converted into fat to increase body weight and because they don't contain any actual sugar, they don't raise blood sugar levels—a major concern for diabetics. Artificial sweeteners allowed weight conscious individuals, diabetics, and others the freedom to eat the same sweet foods and beverages they always enjoyed without worry.

 However, recent research from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, says that there is cause for concern. These artificial sweeteners may actually be contributing to our growing epidemic of diabetes and obesity. Artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body's ability to regulate blood sugar, causing metabolic changes that can be a precursor to diabetes and obesity. These are "the very same conditions that we often aim to prevent" by consuming sweeteners instead of sugar, said Dr. Eran Elinav, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute.

A number of past studies have indicated

  Flushing Avenue, home of Sweet 'N Low - Wikimedia Commons



Aspartame Acesulfame Salt - Wikimedia Commons























The Stevia Deception by Bruce Fife 

The Stevia Deception

by Dr. Bruce Fife


Available from Piccadilly Books, Ltd.

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 that consuming foods containing artificial sweeteners does not prevent obesity, but actually leads to greater weight gain. Various reasons have been proposed to explain this paradox. The most popular theory being that since the artificially sweetened foods are lower in calories, people are more likely to eat them in excess and actually end up consuming more calories. While there may be some truth to this, people gain weight even when their calorie intake is carefully controlled. Blood sugar control also doesn't improve and often gets worse.

According to the study, anyone who uses artificial sweeteners is at greater risk of developing diabetes and being overweight because of the type of bacteria inhabiting their gut. 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.

According to the researchers, the different mix of microbes changes the metabolism of glucose, causing levels to rise higher after eating and to decline more slowly than they otherwise would. Fasting blood glucose levels of 126 mg/dl or higher, is diagnostic of type 2 diabetes; levels ranging from 101 to 125 mg/dl indicate pre-diabetes. Any level above 100 mg/dl is abnormal and signifies glucose intolerance.

High blood glucose also increases the rate of fat production and storage. Elevated blood glucose causes excess insulin to be produced. Insulin is needed to remove the glucose from the bloodstream and shuffle it into the cells. Insulin also causes fat to be produced and be stored in fat cells. When insulin is elevated the body tends to pack more fat into storage, leading to weight gain.

In the initial set of experiments, the scientists added saccharin (the sweetener in the pink packets of Sweet'N Low), sucralose (the yellow packets of Splenda) or aspartame (the blue packets of Equal) to the drinking water of 10-week-old mice. Other mice drank plain water or water supplemented with glucose or with ordinary table sugar. After a week, there was little change in the mice that drank water or sugar water, but the group getting artificial sweeteners developed marked intolerance to glucose.

When the researchers treated the mice with antibiotics, killing much of the bacteria in the digestive system, the glucose intolerance went away.

To further test their hypothesis that the change in glucose metabolism was caused by a change in bacteria, they performed another series of experiments. They took intestinal bacteria from mice who had drank saccharin-laced water and injected them in mice that had never been exposed any saccharin. Those mice developed the same glucose intolerance. And DNA sequencing showed that saccharin had markedly changed the variety of bacteria in the guts of the mice that consumed it.

Next, the researchers turned to a study they were conducting to track the effects of nutrition and gut bacteria on people's long-term health. For 381 nondiabetic participants in the study, the researchers found a correlation between the reported use of any kind of artificial sweetener and signs of glucose intolerance. In addition, the gut bacteria of those who used artificial sweeteners were different from those who did not.

Finally, they recruited seven volunteers who normally did not use artificial sweeteners and over six days gave them the maximum amount of saccharin recommended as safe by the United States Food and Drug Administration. In four of the seven, blood-sugar levels were disrupted in the same way as in mice.

Further, when they injected the human participants' bacteria into the intestines of mice, the animals again developed glucose intolerance, suggesting that effect was the same in both mice and humans.

At present, the scientists cannot explain how the sweeteners affect the bacteria or why the three chemically different sweeteners—saccharin, aspartame and sucralose—result in similar changes in the glucose metabolism. It is possible that the effect may also be seen in other low- or non-calorie sweeteners, such as sugar alcohols and stevia. The researchers said future research would examine aspartame and sucralose in greater detail as well as other alternative sweeteners like stevia.

While acknowledging that it is too early for broad or definitive recommendations, Dr. Elinav said he has already changed his own behavior. "I've consumed very large amounts of coffee, and extensively used sweeteners, thinking like many other people that they are at least not harmful to me and perhaps even beneficial," he said. "Given the surprising results that we got in our study, I made a personal preference to stop using them."

Smart move. It would be wise for everyone to stop using artificial sweeteners.





Suez, J, et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature 2014;514:181-186.










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