If you thought artificial sweeteners were bad before…

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!

2 thoughts on “If you thought artificial sweeteners were bad before…

    • Thanks for posting, Andy!

      I haven’t heard of any other, less harmful, artificial sweeteners, but I think the fact that we’re constantly searching for other ways to satisfy our “sweet tooths” is part of the problem.

      It’s becoming a global concern that society is eating far too much sugar. We crave it. We add it to almost everything. We’re addicted.

      I honestly believe we shouldn’t be looking for alternatives to sugar to add to our diet, rather we should be looking for ways to remove sugar from it. I’ve done loads of posts on the problems with too much sugar, so I’m not going to get on my soap box here, but the fact remains that eating sweet foods leads us to want to eat more sweet foods. If we wean ourselves off sugar, then we can begin to enjoy all the complex flavours of so many other foods in our diet.

      I myself used to have 2 tsp sugar when I drank tea. I gradually decreased it to 1 tsp, then 1/2 tsp, and now no sugar at all, and I’m surprised that I quite enjoy the flavour.

      Individuals have been decreasing their salt intake for years to the point where they no longer need to add any to their food to enjoy the taste. It can be done. You just have to want to.

      And don’t forget, there’s always fruit. :)

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