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Study Shows Sucralose Affects Blood Sugar And Insulin Levels

May 30, 2013
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Many companies that make so-called ℠diet products´ use the artificial sweetener sucralose as a way to reduce calorie count and supposedly making their products healthier.

However, a new study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis published in the journal Diabetes Care has found that the sweetener commercially marketed as Splenda can affect how the body processes sugar.

“Our results indicate that this artificial sweetener is not inert — it does have an effect,” said first author M. Yanina Pepino, research assistant professor of medicine at the university. “And we need to do more studies to determine whether this observation means long-term use could be harmful.”

In the study, the WUSTL researchers recruited obese volunteers with an average body mass index (BMI) of slightly over 42. The subjects were first given a placebo, water or sucralose to drink. The researchers then performed a “glucose challenge test” to see if the combination of sucralose and glucose would affect insulin and blood sugar levels.

“We wanted to study this population because these sweeteners frequently are recommended to them as a way to make their diets healthier by limiting calorie intake,” Pepino said.

Every participant was tested twice, once as a control subject who drank the water and once as a subject who drank the sucralose.

“When study participants drank sucralose, their blood sugar peaked at a higher level than when they drank only water before consuming glucose,” Pepino explained. “Insulin levels also rose about 20 percent higher.”

“So the artificial sweetener was related to an enhanced blood insulin and glucose response,” she concluded.

While an elevated insulin response could be an effective way to respond to spiking glucose levels, it could also cause damage because a regularly elevated insulin response could lead to insulin resistance — and eventually type 2 diabetes.

Recent animal studies have found that some sweeteners may be affecting the gastrointestinal tract and increasing the absorption of glucose. Pepino said those studies could explain how sweeteners affect metabolism, even though human studies involving artificial sweeteners haven´t found similar results.

“Most of the studies of artificial sweeteners have been conducted in healthy, lean individuals,” Pepino said. “In many of these studies, the artificial sweetener is given by itself. But in real life, people rarely consume a sweetener by itself. They use it in their coffee or on breakfast cereal or when they want to sweeten some other food they are eating or drinking.”

She added that more study is necessary to determine the mechanism behind sucralose´s effect on glucose and insulin levels and the overall effect of sucralose on a person´s health.

“We have shown that sucralose is having an effect,” Pepino said. “In obese people without diabetes, we have shown sucralose is more than just something sweet that you put into your mouth with no other consequences.”

“What these all mean for daily life scenarios is still unknown, but our findings are stressing the need for more studies,” she added. “Whether these acute effects of sucralose will influence how our bodies handle sugar in the long term is something we need to know.”


Source: Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online