Lake Nona, Fla. — We've been consuming artificial sweeteners for decades. Not just for coffee anymore, they've become more popular in complex food. But what do they do to the body long-term?

George Kyriazis, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Integrative Metablism Program at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) and investigator at the Florida Hospital Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes, is about to enroll patients in a clinical trial to find out.

Q: What kind of people do you need for this trial?Dr. Kyriazis: Starting in early 2017, we will be recruiting 90 adults, both male and female, between the ages of 18 and 45. They need to be in Florida, and we are interested in healthy individuals who do not normally consume artificial sweeteners, those with a so-called normal metabolism. Participants will be given a saccharine supplement every day for two weeks and take a glucose tolerance test, to see how the body handles glucose. There will be testing after that time.

Q: What exactly are you looking for?Dr. Kyriazis: Artificial sweeteners are not metabolized by human cells, they are not broken down. But they affect something called sweet taste receptors, which we thought were only in the tongue, but now know they are spread throughout the body. Sweet taste receptors sense chemicals in the body to inform the body of the energy status. But with artificial sweeteners, you are temporarily fooling your body into thinking you are bringing in energy. We want to know if chronic consumption of artificial sweeteners affects metabolism and may pre-dispose some people to certain diseases. We will be blocking the sweet taste receptors to see if this changes what happens in your gut.

Q: How would your findings potentially affect human health?Dr. Kyriazis: We want to determine the effects of saccharine on metabolism—without the energetic content. If it does engage or interact with the gut, this may lead to reconsidering the recommendations of artificial sweeteners. But we do not have conclusive evidence that regular consumption of artificial sweeteners has negative effects on metabolism. So, don’t freak out and stop drinking your diet coke. But know we are looking into what long term consumption means to the body.

To schedule an interview with Dr. Kyriazis, please contact

*Dr. George Kyriazis is a reviewer for The Journal of Clinical Investigation,Diabetes, Endocrinology, FEBS letter, and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.He is also a faculty affiliate with the University of Florida Center for Smell and Taste.