A new study released online in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism claims an association between the artificial sweeteners aspartame and saccharine and insulin resistance in obese individuals.
“Our study shows that individuals with obesity who consume artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, may have worse glucose management than those who don’t take sugar substitutes,” says Professor Jennifer Kuk, obesity researcher in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science.
The researchers ran statistical analysis on existing data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES III). They compared the self-reported intake for the past 24 hours with how well individuals did on a glucose tolerance test. Glucose tolerance tests are used to determine how well a person can manage a glucose load which is a good indicator of risk of diabetes.
If people reported intake of aspartame or saccharin intake over a certain level, they were classified as high consumers of the artificial sweeteners. These high consumers did worse on the glucose tolerance test than those participants that reported lower consumption of artificial sweeteners. The association was only seen in obese individuals, not those that had a BMI within the healthy range.
Although this is suggestive that artificial sweeteners may somehow impair the body’s ability to process glucose and increase one’s risk of diabetes, there are several important things to consider before making any conclusions. Because this study relied on self-reported data from free living individuals, there is a higher likelihood of error or misreporting than if the subjects’ intake had been controlled in a clinical setting. Additionally, the intake reporting was only for the previous 24 hour period which is hardly indicative of a dietary pattern.
Obviously, more research is needed before any actual conclusions should be made.
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