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Artificial sweeteners – like those used in diet soda – may hurt the liver’s ability to detoxify

Artificial sweeteners – like those used in diet soda – may hurt the liver’s ability to detoxify and even to process certain medication, study finds

  • Some artificial sweeteners used in products like diet sodas can hurt the liver’s ability to detoxify, a new study finds 
  • The artificial sweeteners Ace-K and sucralose, the latter of which is used in Diet Pepsi, can inhibit proteins in the liver
  • The proteins are responsible for the process of detoxification and for metabolizing medications 
  • Researchers say their data is only from a lab test, meaning it is too early for them to draw any wide-reaching conclusions 

Opting for a ‘diet’ soda instead of the regular version may not be the health-conscious choice that many believe it is, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin found that the artificial sweeteners that replace sugar in many goods could actually harm some liver functions.

Acesulfame potassium, often known as Ace-K, and sucralose were both found to hurt the liver’s ability to go through the process of detoxification, and even hurt its ability to process medicines properly.

While aspartame, which is the most well known, and often the most used, artificial sweetener was not included in the study, the findings have major implications for the millions of Americans who regularly drink diet sodas and other similar ‘zero sugar’ goods.

Researchers found that the artificial sweeteners sucralose and Ace-K can both negatively impact liver processes. Pictured: Flavors of Diet Coca Cola sweetened with Ace-K

‘We observed that sweeteners impacted PGP activity in liver cells at concentrations expected through consumption of common foods and beverages, far below the recommended FDA maximum limits,’ said Dr Stephanie Olivier Van Stichelen, a who lead research team. 

‘To our knowledge, we are the first group to decipher the molecular mechanism by which non-nutritive sweeteners impact detoxification in the liver.’ 

Researchers presented their findings this week at the Experimental Biology 2022 Meeting held by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology this week in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

They conducted the study in a laboratory environment, where they tested the impact that the sweeteners would have on liver cells.

Both types of artificial sweetener inhibited the work of P-glycoprotein, which helps cleanse the body of toxins.

It also helps the body process medication, as the proteins affect the way the liver metabolizes drugs.

Researchers note that their findings are still in the early stages of research, and these sweeteners can not be written off entirely.

Diet Pepsi (pictured) uses sucralose as its primary sweetener

Diet Pepsi (pictured) uses sucralose as its primary sweetener 

Because the study was only conducted in a lab, and not within humans themselves, it is still too early to draw wide-scale conclusions.

It is still a worrying signs for the many Americans who consume products using these sweeteners, especially because they are generally seen as healthier alternative to other foods.

Many artificially sweetened goods use aspartame, which while controversial, has been deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

Aspartame is the sweetener used in Diet Coca-Cola, for example, while its major competitor, Diet Pepsi, uses sucralose.

The most dangerous of sweeteners is believed to be Ace-K, which Diet Coke uses in some of its fruit-flavored products. 

The chemical sweetener has been tied to significant shifts in a person’s gut microbiome, which can cause chronic inflammation.

There are also more shaky ties between the chemical and changes in brain functioning, though scientists are hesitant to make the connection until there is more evidence.