Why Thyroid Patients Should Avoid Artificial Sweeteners

Link Between Hashimoto's Disease and Artificial Sweeteners Studied

Artificial sweeteners linked to Hashimoto's disease
With the link to Hashimoto's disease, is it time to give up artificial sweeteners?. Bill Boch/Photolibrary/Getty Images

As a thyroid patient, and someone who wants to avoid sugar, you may think that you are making a good health decision when you reach for that pink, yellow, or blue packet of artificial sweetener, instead of sugar. Think again!

At the May 2015 meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), researchers recommended that physicians encourage their patients with Hashimoto's disease -- the autoimmune condition that frequently causes hypothyroidism -- to avoid using artificial sweeteners entirely.

The research reported on a study, conducted by investigators at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. The study evaluated 100 patients who had Hashimoto's thyroiditis that had been confirmed with positive Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) antibody tests.

What they found was in those patients was that use of artificial sweeteners -- primarily aspartame (Equal and NutraSweet are well-known brands) or sucralose (Splenda) --.was correlated with elevated thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels.Elevated TSH levels can be indicative of a thyroid slowdown, or hypothyroidism.

Among the 100 patients with Hashimoto's who were studied, 53 of them -- more than half -- reported using the equivalent of 3 1/2 packets a day of artificial sweetener. This was in comparison to 125 people who were Hashimoto's-negative. Only 12 percent regularly of the thyroid-healthy group reported using artificial sweeteners. A total of 88 percent of those without the thyroid antibodies reported no use of artificial sweeteners.


Lead investigator Dr. Isaac Sachmechi told the Clinical Endocrinology News:

When patients come to me for Hashimoto's and I diagnose them, I ask them if they use artificial sweeteners. If they do, I mention this study and highly suggest they stop using them.

According to Dr. Sachmechi, two of the three patients who took his advice had a complete reversal of their Hashimoto's, and their antibodies returned to normal, and they were able to go off their thyroid hormone replacement medication.

Dr. Sachmechi got the idea for the study when he observed a patient with elevated TSH was, over time, requiring lower doses of her thyroid medication. Eventually her thyroid blood test levels improved to such an extent that Dr. Sachmechi took her off thyroid medication. He asked if she had been doing anything different, and she said that she had had stopped using artificial sweeteners.

This is not the first time that artificial sweeteners have been linked to thyroid conditions, or Hashimoto's disease.

Some of the mechanisms that may be in play?

  • Artificial sweeteners may change the balance of bacteria in the gut -- known as the gut microbiome -- as well as the pH level.
  • The intestines are a key part of the immune system, and intestinal imbalances may be a trigger factor for immune dysfunction or autoimmune disease.
  • In the case of aspartame, it is processed into formaldehyde in the body, which is a toxin that can cause hypersensitivity in some people.
  • Sucralose is chlorinated, and again, the chlorine is a toxin that may be a trigger for autoimmune diseases.


    The main reason you may want to use an artificial sweetener is to control calories, or for weight loss. But keep in mind, recent research has shown that these artificial sweeteners are not only ineffective for weight loss, but they actually may impair your ability to lose weight.

    A reputable study in the journal Nature found that artificial sweeteners appear to drive an “exaggerated elevation in blood glucose levels, the very same condition that we often aim to prevent by consuming them,” according to study authors Dr. Eran Elinav.

    In the end, you are better off using a small amount of organic sugar -- versus artificial sweeteners -- or cutting out sweeteners of all kinds. 


    With growing concerns about their effects, there are no good reasons anymore to use artificial sweeteners. As noted, they been shown to play no role in weight loss, but are linked to weight gain, or difficulty losing weight, as well as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance. Now, with this potential link to Hashimoto's disease, it seems like a good idea for Hashimoto's and autoimmune patients to seriously consider giving up artificial sweeteners...for good.


    Suez, J. et. al. “Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota,” Nature. Published online 17 September 2014 

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