New research has found that while switching to artificial sweeteners can help people who are obese cut calories and lose weight, it may also increase their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
The study, led by a team of researchers at York University, Canada, found that the bacteria in the gut may be able to break down artificial sweeteners. This results in negative health effects, due to the fact that the natural makeup of the gut has been alternated.
"Our study shows that individuals with obesity who consume artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, may have worse glucose management than those who don’t take sugar substitutes," Professor Jennifer Kuk commented.
During the study the scientists analysed data from more than 2,500 US adults who took part in the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey.
The individuals reported their diet over the past 24 hours and were categorised as consumers of artificial sweeteners (aspartame or saccharin), or high or low consumers of natural sugars (sugar or fructose).
Using an oral glucose tolerance test, the researchers measured the diabetes risk of participants based on their ability to manage blood sugars.
Those who regularly consume artificial sweeteners were found to have a low ability to manage stable glucose levels naturally.
"We didn’t find this adverse effect in those consuming saccharin or natural sugars," said Kuk.
"We will need to do future studies to determine whether any potentially negative health effects of artificial sweeteners outweigh the benefits for obesity reduction."
The study, which was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, is published in full in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.