Artificial sweeteners linked to higher risk of Diabetes

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked into whether there is a relationship between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and increased risk of diabetes.

They were comparing the use of artificial sweeteners to (i) using no sweeteners at all, and (ii) using sugar as a sweetener.

They tracked 4719 young adults (men and women) over a period of 20 years. They took data at Year 0, Year 7 and Year 20.

They adjusted the findings to account for lifestyle factors, diet quality, and dieting behaviour. This is a good thing, since many such "observational" studies don't account for such confounding factors, which often skew the data.

(for example: is the increase in risk of diabetes due to the use of sweeteners or is it because people who use sweeteners tend to have a bad diet in general? Adjusting for these factors greatly reduces these types of problems in such studies).

So what did they find?

- 1 serving of artificial sweetener increased risk of Diabetes by 12%

- 1 serving of sugar increased risk of Diabetes by 6%

What? how can that be?? how can artificial sweeteners increase the risk more than sugar?!

It's not that surprising to be honest, and I've talked about this multiple times before in articles and videos.

The one question mark about this study is: they didn't track what "kind" of artificial sweeteners they used, so that may have an impact, although I believe it to be a small one.

How can artificial sweeteners lead to a rise in risk of Diabetes? There are multiple theories which may explain this.

  • Possibility 1: use of artificial sweeteners reduces your "taste sensitivity" to sweet foods. This means you crave sweeter and sweeter foods over time, making you consume more fruits and other sugar-containing foods

  • Possibility 2: artificial sweeteners alter the microbiome in your digestive system, reducing your ability to effectively control blood glucose levels.

There are other theories, but those 2 seem to have the most research behind them so far.

It's hard to do research on these topics because: research studies are expensive, and often finance by large companies (often times big food or pharmaceutical companies). They have no benefit in financing large studies on such a topic: it's against their business interest right?

To read this study.

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