Sweeteners may cause type 2 diabetes

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Those who swap sugar for artificial sweeteners are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a new study has found.

While the sweet alternatives may contain less calories and aid weight loss, they have been linked to changing gut bacteria, which could cause glucose intolerance.

Data on 2,856 U.S. adults from the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES III) was looked at, with participants noting down their diet in the last 24 hours. They were split into groups who consumed artificial sweeteners (aspartame or saccharin) and consumers of natural sugars (sugar or fructose).

From the results, it was discovered that those who ate artificial sweeteners – aspartame or saccharin – had a slightly higher BMI level (28 vs. 27), and these individuals were more likely to be women.

“Our study shows 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, of York University in Toronto, said.

Sweeteners can be found in everything from fizzy drinks to chewing gum and yoghurt. Type 2 diabetes comes about when a person’s blood sugar level becomes too high, which in this case was measured by the ability to manage blood sugars using an oral glucose tolerance test.

Professor Kuk notes that the damage in health wasn’t found in those who consumed saccharin or natural sugars, suggesting that the obesity reduction from sweeteners isn’t enough to justify the health problems caused by them.

However, the expert notes things need to be checked further, adding: “More research is needed to better understand the weight-management benefits of artificial sweetener consumption over natural sugars against the potential increased diabetes risk, particularly for those with obesity.”

The study is published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

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