Artificial Sweeteners: Can They Cause Type 2 Diabetes?
Artificial sweeteners are often used as sugar substitutes as they can help "curb your cravings" for something sweet without the health risks real sugars can cause.
But medical experts are suspicious of sugar substitutes.
"The short answer is we don't know what happens when you replace sugar with artificial sweeteners," Dr. Robert Lustig, endocrinologist and sugar researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, told Time.com.
"We have data nibbling around the edges, but we don't have enough to make a hard determination for any specific sweetener," he added.
Foods rich in sugar drive insulin resistance. The larger the amount of sugar you take, the more insulin your pancreas produces and releases to keep your blood glucose levels in control. The pancreas may become too overworked and may have difficulty producing enough insulin, and this results in type-2 diabetes.
But with artificial sweeteners, the glucose hit doesn't come, and the pancreas searches for blood glucose that will trigger insulin production.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes are safe according to the standards of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has tested and approved six artificial sweeteners, which include acesulfame potassium, aspartame (Equal), saccharin, sucralose (Splenda), neotame and advantame.
These sweeteners are being used to make diet drinks, baked goods, frozen desserts, candy, light yoghurt and chewing gum, ADA said.
But according to a 2009 study, people who consume diet soda on a daily basis are 36 percent at risk of developing metabolic syndrome - a condition where people have high blood pressure and too much abdominal fat - and are 67 percent more likely to develop type-2 diabetes than people who don't drink either diet or regular soda.
A more recent study found that artificial sweeteners altered the microbiotic makeup of mice's gut, which may lead to metabolic diseases.
Another study conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis observed insulin levels of obese subjects who drunk either water or a beverage sweetened with Splenda (sucralose) 10 minutes before they took real sugar. According to lead researcher Dr. Yayina Pepino, the participants' bodies released 20% more insulin after drinking the beverage with artificial sweetener.
Medical experts assert that not all sugar substitutes are the same, and once swallowed, these artificial sweeteners will have different metabolic effects.
Pepino's research team is currently looking into the effects of sucralose in the body's insulin responses when taken by lean people as compared to people with obesity.