Diabetes and Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial Sweeteners Affect Blood Sugar Levels

What do artificial sweeteners have to do with sugar? According to a new study, they influence blood sugar levels, even in non-diabetics.

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis analyzed the effect of sucralose on severely obese people who didn’t have diabetes and don’t use artificial sweeteners regularly.

“We wanted to study this population because these sweeteners frequently are recommended to them as a way to make their diets healthier by limiting calorie intake,” said first author M. Yanina Pepino, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine.

But the substance, marketed as Splenda, had a significant effect on the study subjects. The participants were tested twice, drinking water followed by glucose in one visit, and sucralose followed by glucose in a second visit

 “When study participants drank sucralose, their blood sugar peaked at a higher level than when they drank only water before consuming glucose,” Pepino explained. “Insulin levels also rose about 20 percent higher.”

That result, she said, is both good and bad.  The elevated insulin level indicates that the person can make enough insulin to deal with spiking glucose levels. On the other hand, when people routinely secrete more insulin, they can become resistant to its effects. That leads to type 2 diabetes.

Pepino said the results, which were published in the journal Diabetes Care, indicated the need for further studies. “Our results indicate that this artificial sweetener is not inert — it does have an effect. We need to…determine whether this observation means long-term use could be harmful.”

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