Well Being

Skip The Splenda: Artificial Sweeteners Found To Cause Blood Sugar & Insulin Spikes

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My, oh my: A new study from the Washington University School of Medicine found it's possible for popular artificial sweetener sucralose–brand name Splenda–to change the way the body reacts to insulin. This could go a long way to explaining why drinking diet sodas and other artificially sweetened beverages has been somewhat confusingly linked to weight gain.

Despite it's no-calorie status, sucralose and Splenda are “more than just something sweet that you put into your mouth with no other consequences,” lead researcher M. Yanina Pepino said.

Artificial sweeteners can affect metabolism, even at very low doses, her team concluded.

The study was small: Participants included 17 “severely obese” but non-diabetic individuals who rarely consumed artificial sweeteners prior to the study. Each was given either water or a sucralose sweetened drink, followed by a dose of glucose (regular sugar).

The researchers hoped to determine how the combination of these (“real” and artificial sweeteners) affected people's insulin and blood sugar levels.

“When study participants drank sucralose, their blood sugar peaked at a higher level than when they drank only water before consuming glucose,” explained Pepino. “Insulin levels also rose about 20 percent higher. So the artificial sweetener was related to an enhanced blood insulin and glucose response.”

In the long-term, elevated insulin response can lead to type-2 diabetes.

So remember: There is no such thing as a consequence-free sweetener, kids. The 20th century was all about trying to trick our bodies with low- and no-calorie diet foods and beverages, and that clearly hasn't gone so well.

Fake foods were meant to thwart the body's natural mechanisms, but the body's natural mechanisms are smarter than Pepsi Co. and Kraft (go figure). Diets don't work, diet foods don't work—looks like in the 21st century, we're just going to have to try eating real food again! It might just be crazy enough to work … 

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Liz Nolan Brown, Elizabeth Brown, Elizabeth N Brown, health writer, nutritionist, food, nutrition