Artificial sweetener Splenda affects blood glucose and insulin levels

Fri, 31 May 2013
Splenda, the sucralose-based artificial sweetener, may elevate the risk of type 2 diabetes after new research revealed it can affect how the body processes sugar .

Experts from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that consuming the low calorie sweetener caused blood sugar levels to peak at a higher level and increased the production of natural insulin.

The researchers analysed the effects of Splenda, which is some 600 times sweeter than table sugar, in 17 severely obese but diabetes-free individuals who did not use artificial sweeteners regularly.

The subjects were given a placebo, water or dissolved sucralose to drink before undergoing a "glucose challenge test" to see whether the combination of sucralose and glucose would affect insulin and blood sugar levels.

After testing every participant twice, once as a control subject who drank the water and once as a subject who drank the sucralose, they found that when study participants consumed sucralose followed by glucose, their blood sugar peaked at a higher level than when drinking only water followed by glucose .

There was also a 20% rise in insulin levels, indicating that Splenda "was related to an enhanced blood insulin and glucose response".

The scientist explained that while an increased insulin response could be good sign showing the person is able to produce enough insulin to deal with spiking glucose levels, it could also be dangerous.

"When people routinely secrete more insulin, they can become resistant to its effects, a path that leads to type 2 diabetes," explained first author M.Yanina Pepino.

The research assistant professor of medicine at the university said: "We have shown that sucralose is having an effect. 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."

But she added that further studies are needed "to determine whether this observation means long-term use could be harmful," as well as determining the mechanism through which sucralose influences glucose and insulin levels.

The findings are published in the journal Diabetes Care.
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