Artificial sweeteners increase diabetes risk in just two weeks

Artificial sweeteners can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to new research by the University of Adelaide in Australia.

The researchers aimed to investigate the effects of consuming large amounts of non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) on the body’s response to glucose.

Previous studies have indicated that habitual consumption of large amounts of NAS is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, however the underlying mechanisms for how this occurs are unknown.

They recruited 27 healthy subjects who were given a quantity of two different NAS (sucralose and acesulfame-K) equivalent to drinking 1.5 litres of a diet soft drink per day, or an inactive placebo.

At the end of the two week study period, subjects had their response to glucose tested, examining glucose absorption, plasma glucose, and levels of insulin and gut peptides.

The researchers found that NAS supplementation caused an increase in measures of the body’s response to glucose, measured using a technique known as the incremental area under the curve (iAUC). This was greater for both glucose absorption and blood glucose. None of these measures were altered in those subjects who were given a placebo.

The study determined that just 2 weeks of NAS supplementation was enough to enhance glucose absorption and increase the magnitude of the response of blood glucose as a result.

The study’s lead author, Professor Richard Young, said: ‘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.’