Artificial sweeteners may be “light,” but they are still harmful your health

Diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. It is more prevalent in people who are overweight or sedentary.

Newly published research out of France shows that those who “always, almost always” add sweeteners in the form of sachets or tablets to their drinks have an 83% greater risk of diabetes than people who do not use sweeteners at all.

For over 30 years, aspartame and sucralose have been used in place of sugar to make “diet” soft drinks.

Not so pretty in Pink. Fort Greene Focus/Flickr, CC BY-ND

Despite the fact that industrial manufacturers have been adding artificial sweeteners to a wide range of products, including drinks, cereals, biscuits, and cakes, as well as low-calorie yogurts and certain medicines with increasing frequency, there are few reliable data about their effects on health.

These products are marketed to consumers as healthy alternatives with low calories. In order to avoid weight gain, consumers are encouraged to use sweeteners in excess. Even in moderate amounts, these additives may have adverse effects on your health.

Sweeteners are a controversial topic today, as they may cause weight gain or cancer.

This has led independent research around the world to seek out ways to measure their true effects on health and, in particular, their impact on metabolic disorders.

Diabetes and cancer are linked to increased risk.

Since 2012, our team at France’s Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health within Inserm has contributed to the growing body of knowledge in health through a research programme on risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes.

According to the findings of this program, sugar substitutes are something that should be used with extreme caution. published a study in February showing that artificial sweeteners increase the risk of developing diabetes. We already showed that the risk of diabetes was higher when drinking so-called “diet drinks compared to regular sodas.

The data used in our research comes from the Epidemiological Study of Women in National Education (E3N ), a cohort of over 100,000 French women. This is one of only a few cohorts of such size in the world.

The prospective cohort study, which has been running for 27 years, monitors the health of the women who are members of the mutual health insurance for French national educators. Francoise Clavie-Chapelon initiated the study and aims to better understand women’s health, including their risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Since 1993, participants have filled out detailed questions about their diets, providing full details on each food intake. This includes snacks and appetizers before the three main meals and evening snacks. Researchers can now get detailed data, including images of the food and drink consumed by each woman, as well as the average nutritional intake. The study concluded in 2007.

Standard glasses are used to estimate how much sugary, sweetened or artificially sweetened drinks you consume. G.Fagherazzi, Author provided

Want a soda? Avoid diet

In 2013, after studying this data, our team was able for the first to show that diet drinks are associated with a greater risk of diabetes than regular sodas.

1 369 of the 66,118 participants in this study were diagnosed with diabetes type 2. Our team modeled the risk of developing type 2 diabetes based on the consumption of three different drinks: regular sodas (without artificial sweeteners), artificially sweetened soft drinks and 100% pure juice. We also took into consideration other factors, such as physical exercise, body mass index, and family history.

Previous studies have already demonstrated that high soda consumption is associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes.

We were able to differentiate between the two this time. At 1.5 litres a week (equivalent to a large bottle), for example, the risk of developing diabetes with diet drinks was 60% higher than that of regular sugary beverages. The results are even more impressive when you consider that people drank fewer sugar-free drinks back then than they do now. Back then, the average was 328 ml per week of sugary beverages (about one can) and 568ml per week of “diet drinks”.

The solid line shows the type 2 diabetes risk based on how much sugary drinks, sweetened drinks and fruit juice are consumed. Guy Fagherazzi

There was no increased risk of diabetes when using 100% pure fruit juices that are naturally sweetened.

Artificial sugar makes you feel hungry

Our team recently used the E3N Study to examine women’s consumption patterns of sweeteners, whether in tablet or sachet form. Our latest study shows that women who consume sweeteners “always or nearly always” have an 83% greater risk of diabetes than women who do not use them.

Participants who had used them for over ten years were at 110% greater risk than those who did not use them or used them only rarely. This suggests a cumulative effect.

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