According to a recent publication in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there is a stronger connection between the consumption of “diet” or “light” soft drinks with the development of Type 2 Diabetes than the consumption of regular soft drinks. This was a large-scale study involving 66,188 French women from the E3N cohort whose dietary intake patterns and health statistics were followed for a period of 14 years.
There are a couple of particularly interesting things to not in the study. One, the women drinking the “diet” drinks tended to consume more of them than did the women consuming sugar-sweetened drinks. (Approx 2.8 glasses per week versus 1.6 glasses per week on average.) In addition, when comparing equal rates of consumption, diabetes prevalence continued to be higher for the “diet” group. At an average consumption of 0.5L of soda per week, the incidence of diabetes was 15% greater in the “diet” group. At an average intake of 1.5L per week, the “diet” group developed diabetes a whopping 59% more frequently.
How on earth does something that has no sugar or calories cause diabetes? As it turns out, the answer is two-fold. It appears that diet drinks tend to stimulate greater cravings for sugar in general, leading to the consumption of other sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods that increase blood sugar; when blood sugar is up, the body produces insulin in response, and with repeated exposure to very high circulating insulin levels, over time the body becomes insulin resistant, and diabetes develops. Secondly, it turns out that aspartame (the most prevalent artificial sweetener) also triggers insulin production in its own right the same way that the sucrose (table sugar) does, triggering the same path for insulin resistance as sugar.
Further studies are needed to corroborate the results from this one, but the evidence is certainly strong enough to give pause.
Now I’m not a pop drinker generally, so I can’t say I know first-hand if the above assertion about sugar cravings is valid. Do you drink diet pop? And if you do, do you find you crave sugar afterward? I’d love to know!