If you’re watching your blood sugar levels, you might want to avoid artificial sweeteners, according to new research. A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature found that, for some people, the sweeteners can lead to type 2 diabetes. USA Today has the story:
The benefits and risks of artificial sweeteners have been debated for decades. Some studies show no link to diabetes and others suggest there is one. The new research, from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, finds that differences in gut microbes may explain why some people can handle artificial sweeteners just fine while in an unknown percentage of others the sweeteners lead to diabetes.
The human digestive system is home to millions of microbes, largely bacteria, that help digest food and may play a role in health.
The researchers were quick to note that their work needs to be repeated before it’s clear whether artificial sweeteners truly can trigger diabetes.
“I think this issue is far from being resolved,” said Eran Elinav, who studies the link between an individual’s immune system, gut microbes and health at the Weizmann Institute.
He admitted that his research has soured him on sweetening the coffee he needs to get through his day.
“I’ve consumed very large amounts of coffee and extensively used sweeteners, thinking that they were at least not harmful and perhaps even beneficial,” Elinav said at a telephone news conference Tuesday. “Given the surprising result we got in our study, I made a decision to stop using” artificial sweeteners.
George King, chief scientific officer at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, who wrote the forthcoming book The Diabetes Reset, said he may start cutting back on his diet soda habit, too.
“I think I will recommend that people not drink more than one or two cans a day,” said King, who was not involved in the new research.
Artificial sweeteners cannot be digested, so it was assumed that there would be no way for them to lead to diabetes. Microbes seem to provide the missing link.
In a series of experiments in mice and people, the researchers examined the interaction between gut microbes and consumption of the sweeteners aspartame, sucralose and saccharine. Depending on the types of microbes they had in their intestines, some people and mice saw a two- to fourfold increase in blood sugars after consuming the artificial sweeteners for a short time. Over time, high blood sugar levels can lead to diabetes. Read more.