Low-Calorie Sweeteners: A Diabetes Risk?
From sports drinks and sodas to protein bars, food companies use artificial sweeteners to market their products as low-calorie or diet.
Although it seems like these products would help you lose weight, recent research raises questions about the longterm effects. Researchers say that for people who have obesity, low-calorie sweeteners could promote metabolic syndrome, prediabetes and diabetes.
A serious disease, metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors. It includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels and abdominal fat. Metabolic syndrome doubles the risk of blood vessel and heart disease, leading to heart attacks and strokes. These risk factors increase the risk of diabetes by three to five times.
If you’re trying to lose weight by relying on low-calorie sweeteners, make sure you talk to your health provider or a Registered Dietitian. In some cases, it may be appropriate to use them on a short-term basis.
During the latest study, researchers found that low-calorie sweeteners promote additional fat accumulation within cells.
“Our stem cell-based studies indicate that low-calorie sweeteners promote additional fat accumulation within cells compared with cells not exposed to these substances, in a dose-dependent fashion—meaning that as the dose of sucralose is increased more cells showed increased fat droplet accumulation,” said lead researcher Sabyasachi Sen, M.D., at George Washington University, in a news release from the Endocrine Society. “This most likely occurs by increasing glucose entry into cells through increased activity of genes called glucose transporters.”
Additionally, Sen said, the research findings are of greatest concern for people who have obesity and prediabetes or diabetes. This group of people already faces a heightened risk of heart attacks and strokes.
“We think the effect is more pronounced in overweight and obese people rather than their normal weight counterparts because they have more insulin resistance and may have more glucose in their blood,” he said.