Switching to artificial sweeteners may seem like a great way to cut sugar from your diet, but a new study suggests it could actually increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Adelaide, Australia, found that consuming artificial sweeteners for just two weeks was enough to change the body’s reaction to glucose.
However, it’s worth noting that participants in the study consumed artificial sweeteners in high volumes and more research may be needed into more moderate consumption.
The researchers highlighted that previous studies have indicated that habitual consumption of large amounts of non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) is associated with an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, however the underlying mechanisms for how this occurs are unknown.
The latest study aimed to investigate the effects of consuming large amounts of the artificial sweeteners on the body’s response to glucose.
According to the NHS, Type 2 diabetes occurs “when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal blood glucose level, or the body is unable to use the insulin that is produced (insulin resistance)”.
The researchers recruited 27 healthy people who were given a quantity of two different artificial sweeteners equivalent to drinking 1.5L of diet beverage per day, or an inactive placebo.
These were consumed in the form of capsules taken three times a day before meals over the two-week period of the study.
At the end of the two weeks, subjects had their response to glucose tested, examining glucose absorption, blood glucose, and levels of insulin and gut peptides, which limit the rise in blood glucose after meals.
The team found that those consuming artificial sweeteners displayed higher levels of glucose absorption and blood glucose, while the body’s ability to limit the rise in blood glucose after meals was reduced.
None of these measures were altered in those subjects who were given a placebo.
The study determined that just two weeks of sweetener supplementation was enough to enhance glucose absorption and increase the magnitude of the response of blood glucose as a result.
The authors concluded that: “This study supports the concept that artificial sweeteners could reduce the body’s control of blood sugar levels and highlights the potential for exaggerated post-meal glucose levels in high habitual NAS users, which could predispose them to developing Type 2 diabetes”.
The research was presented at this year’s annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Lisbon, Portugal (11-15 Sept).