Research presented at this year’s European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Lisbon, Portugal suggested that artificial sweeteners may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by changing the body’s response to glucose.
Twenty-seven healthy individuals were given a placebo or two noncaloric artificial sweeteners, sucralose and acesulfame-K, in an amount equivalent to drinking four 12-ounce cans of a diet beverage. After two weeks, the participants were tested for rates of glucose (sugar) absorption, insulin levels, and gut hormones levels that control food intake.
This small study determined that it took two weeks of consuming an equivalent of four cans of diet beverage to increase the rate sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream and increase the body’s response to sugar. The participants had an increase in blood sugar, as opposed to a decrease in blood sugar as would be expected with the consumption of a beverage containing no sugar.
Despite the growing evidence that nonnutritive sweeteners may not be healthy substitutes for sugar-sweetened beverages, popular health websites, such as the Mayo Clinic, suggest that individuals with diabetes use nonnutritive sweeteners. Sweeteners in their list include saccharin (Sweet'N Low), aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), acesulfame potassium (Sunett), sucralose, (Splenda) and stevia (Pure Via, Truvia).
The author of the Mayo Clinic page on nonnutritive sweeteners mentions that recent studies have cast doubt on recommending these sweeteners, and the benefits of making these substitutions are not clear.
* Pepsi no longer uses sucralose in their diet soda.
Christine Dobrowolski is a nutritionist and whole-foods advocate.