Diet sips and snacks may not be as healthy as you think, according to new research published in the journal Diabetes Care. Sucralose, one of the most popular artificial sweeteners on the market, may cause a spike in insulin secretion, finds a team of researchers at Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Since artificial sweeteners are often marketed as weight-loss aids, researchers chose to study the effects of sucralose on 17 obese, diabetes-free adults who rarely consumed sugar substitutes. In one session of the small clinical trial, participants were instructed to drink either water or a dose of liquid sucralose (about the amount in a 12-ounce can of diet soda) before taking a 75-gram serving of glucose (as if they were consuming the drink with food). As a control, the team repeated the experiment a week later with the same group, but doled out water to the participants whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d had sucralose in the initial test and vice versa.
When insulin levels were measured 90 minutes later, the participants who had consumed the sucralose had insulin concentrations 20 percent higher than those who had sipped water. Researchers also noted that the blood sugar of people whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d had the sucralose-spiked drinks peaked at a higher level than it did in those who didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the sweetener.
Although a surge of insulin is a healthy response to a sugar rush, repeatedly flooding your body with sugar could lead to insulin insensitivity. Normally, the pancreas will bump insulin production to compensate for cellsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ blunted response to insulinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s regulation of glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids, but if left unchecked, the concentration of sugar and fatty acids in the blood will build up and could lead to type 2 diabetes.
Since the clinical trial only tested the effects of sucralose in a small group of adults during two sessions, researchers say additional studies need to be carried out to figure out whether or not artificial sweeteners actually pose a health riskÃ¢â‚¬”so they caution against jumping to conclusions. Ã¢â‚¬Å“To say that sucralose causes diabetes is stretching our study results too much,Ã¢â‚¬Â says lead study author Yanina Pepino, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine at Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not exactly what we measured.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Still, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s clear that sucking down zero-calorie fizzy drinks with a meal affects your body in ways the ultimate diet drinkÃ¢â‚¬”waterÃ¢â‚¬”does not, she says. Although itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not yet clear how the human body detects artificial sweeteners, Pepino says previous studies in animals suggest taste receptors in the gastrointestinal tract and pancreas prompt the body to react as it would to sugar.
So whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a girl to do? Ã¢â‚¬Å“As a dietitian, my two cents would be that everything should be taken in moderation,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Gina Crome, RD, founder of Lifestyle Management Solutions. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That includes artificial sweeteners.Ã¢â‚¬Â Crome recommends keeping soda consumption to two or fewer servings per day, regardless of the sugar content.
For a worry-free beverage, jazz up a glass of seltzer or tap water with lemon or lime wedges, berries, crushed herbs, or sliced ginger.
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