Investigators at the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, measured how much artificial sweeteners are absorbed into the blood stream by children and adults after drinking various doses of sucralose with or without acesulfame-potassium, both in diet soda and mixed in seltzer or plain water.

Children, aged 6-12, had double the concentrations of sugar in their blood after drinking a single twelve-ounce can of diet soda than adults aged 18-45. Results of this study are published in Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry.

The most popular artificial sweeteners are:

  • Saccharine (Sweet’N Low)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet)
  • Acesulfame-potassium (aka Acesulfame-K)

Artificial sweeteners, or sugar substitutes, offer the sweetness of sugar without the calories. They seem ideal for weight loss. That’s why foods and beverages made with artificial sweeteners can advertise as “low calorie” compared to those made with sugar. Artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar, so it takes a smaller amount to sweeten foods. For this reason, The American Diabetes Association () suggests “foods and drinks that use artificial sweeteners are another option that may help curb your cravings for something sweet.”

But artificial sweeteners are villainous once they’re in our bodies. The New York Times reports on a study out of Israel. In an experiment with mice and people researchers found that artificial sweeteners develop glucose intolerance by altering the microbiome in the digestive system. The study was published in the journal Nature. Microbiome is a complex environment of microorganisms that balance our health. The microbiome change creates a risk factor for diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Depending on genetics, some people absorb relatively small amounts of artificial sweeteners and some exorbitantly high amounts.

Early life exposure to artificial sweeteners may influence a child’s future taste preferences, diet and metabolic fate. Artificial sweetener alternatives include stevia, raw local honey or fruits. If you’re craving for something sweet while trying to break the artificial sweetener habit, try this recipe for a juice spritzer:

  • Sparking water
  • Splash of unsweetened juice, like L&A cranberry pomegranate
  • Slice of lime