The Association Between Artificial Sweeteners and Obesity

  • Michelle PearlmanEmail author
  • Jon Obert
  • Lisa Casey
Nutrition and Obesity (S McClave and J Obert, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Nutrition and Obesity


Purpose of Review

The purpose of this paper is to review the epidemiology of obesity and the evolution of artificial sweeteners; to examine the latest research on the effects of artificial sweeteners on the host microbiome, the gut-brain axis, glucose homeostasis, and energy consumption; and to discuss how all of these changes ultimately contribute to obesity.

Recent Findings

Although artificial sweeteners were developed as a sugar substitute to help reduce insulin resistance and obesity, data in both animal models and humans suggest that the effects of artificial sweeteners may contribute to metabolic syndrome and the obesity epidemic. Artificial sweeteners appear to change the host microbiome, lead to decreased satiety, and alter glucose homeostasis, and are associated with increased caloric consumption and weight gain.


Artificial sweeteners are marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar and as a tool for weight loss. Data however suggests that the intended effects do not correlate with what is seen in clinical practice. Future research should focus on the newer plant-based sweeteners, incorporate extended study durations to determine the long-term effects of artificial sweetener consumption, and focus on changes in the microbiome, as that seems to be one of the main driving forces behind nutrient absorption and glucose metabolism.


Obesity Artificial sweeteners Microbiome Insulin resistance Metabolic syndrome Calorie consumption 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and HepatologyUniversity of Texas Southwestern Medical CenterDallasUSA
  2. 2.Division of Gastroenterology and HepatologyUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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