January 21, 2018

Dieting? Artificial Sweeteners May Not Be the Answer

Two studies presented at the June 2012 America Diabetes Association meeting showed that drinking diet pop is associated with weight gain in humans, and with higher blood glucose levels in mice.

Epidemiologists at the School of Medicine at the University of Texas San Antonio looked at the relationship between diet pop consumption and waist circumference. They studied 474 patients over 10 years in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging (SALSA), which includes elderly Mexican-Americans and European-Americans.

The results of the study were adjusted for diabetes status, physical activity level, neighborhood, age, smoking status, sex, ethnicity, and education. Researchers found that diet soft drink users had a 70% greater increases in waist circumference compared with those who did not consume diet soft drinks. And those who drank two or more diet soft drinks per day had increases 500% larger than non-drinkers.

In the study of blood glucose levels in mice, researchers studied the relationship between aspartame intake and fasting glucose and insulin levels. They looked at 40 diabetes-prone mice. One group was given food with aspartame and corn oil added; the other was given food with just corn oil added.

After three months, the mice in the group fed aspartame had elevated fasting glucose levels, but equal or lower insulin levels. Dr. Gabriel Fernandes, professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology, said in a statement that “these results suggest that heavy aspartame exposure might potentially directly contribute to increased blood glucose levels, and thus contributed to the associations observed between diet soda consumption and the risk of diabetes in humans.”

These are not the first studies that show a link between artificial sweeteners and health risks. A study conducted at Bangor University published earlier this month found that drinking two sugary drinks a day for four weeks dulls sensitivity to sugar and increases preference for it. In other words, just a little sugar can change taste perception and lead to cravings.

And today, researchers at the Miami Miller School of Medicine released a study that links diet soda to an increased risk of stroke. People who drank diet soda every day, according to that study, had a 61 percent higher risk of stroke than those who drank no soda at all. After adjusting for metabolic syndrome, vascular disease, and heart disease history, those who drank diet soda still had a 48% higher risk of stroke.

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