People who suffer from obesity and chronic weight gain are affected by multiple factors.Genetics, a weakened thyroid, meager diet, and poor lifestyle choices can all increase body weight, but the role of artificial sweeteners is often overlooked. In past decades, organizations such as the American Cancer Society have performed correlational studies that indicate weight gain and artificial sweetener intake were related. In 2017, Bian and colleagues monitored the week-long effect of the artificial sweetener Acesulfame-K (Ace-K) on mice, and the study concluded that the popular, calorie-free additive in food and beverages caused weight gain.
Making Ace-K the only variable in the mice’s diet, Bian’s data present a strong connection between weight gain and Ace-K usage, as male mice that were subjected to Ace-K gained more weight than those in the control. Even when accounting for the error bars, there is a noticeable difference in mass. The female mice’s smaller increase in weight question the universality of these data however. This suggests that Ace-K had a much stronger negative effect on males, but that doesn’t negate the sweetener’s impact on females. The figure indicates that females with Ace-K treatment gained more weight than those without it, and the difference is more profound when the error bars are taken into consideration.
Making Acesulfame-K the only addition to the mice’s diets, this study conducted by Bian et al. points toward a new risk factor for weight gain. The experimental data show that Ace-K can trigger weight gain in an organism without any other significant changes in activity or diet. Knowing that this substance performs the exact opposite of what it’s advertised to do, it makes one wonder if other artificial sweeteners carry the same effect and why.
*Bian, Xiaoming et al., PloS one, vol. 12, no. 6, 2017