New study reopens debate about artificial sweeteners and risk of type 2 diabetes

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New research presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, in Lisbon, Portugal, suggest that non-caloric artificial sweeteners can cause metabolic derangements which up risks of developing type 2 diabetes.
Artificial sweeteners continue to be a controversial health issue: on one hand, they are becoming increasingly popular as people try to reduce their calorie intake and lose weight. But on the other hand, there is this purported link with metabolic syndrome.
In this small study, researchers from the University of Adelaide, in Australia, looked at whether high consumption of artificial sweeteners led to blood sugar dysregulations.
The research involved 27 healthy participants who were assigned to take oral capsules of two different artificial sweeteners, sucralose and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), three times a day for two weeks prior to meals. Some were given a placebo instead.
The results show that those who’ve been taking the capsules had spikes in their blood sugars after meals, suggesting it may impair glucose tolerance over time thereby increasing risks for type 2 diabetes.
Following the release of these findings, many experts including Victor Zammit, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Warwick, have voiced concerns and said that it would be premature to draw any firm conclusions at this stage:
“Increased sweetener intake may be associated with other lifestyle elements that may be more direct causes of type 2 diabetes,” Zammit recently told a Guardian reporter.
For every study that has linked artificial sweetener consumption with metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes, there is another that has found no association.
Furthermore, most studies conducted on artificial sweeteners to date were observational in nature or have only been done on mice. It is unclear how much of this existing data really applies to us humans in a real-world setting.
Based on available evidence, it seems that artificial sweeteners can be helpful for weight loss in some circumstances. However, the effect of artificial sweeteners on disease risk remains inconclusive.
In sum, we need to see the results of larger trials testing in settings truer to real life before we’ll know more about health risks associated with artificial sweeteners.