I frequently get asked if using artificial sweeteners is preferable and, if so, which one. This is because I am a doctor who has dedicated my career to preventing heart problems, diabetes, insulin resistance, and other chronic disorders. In a nutshell, sugar is worse than artificial sweeteners. So diet Coca-Cola is healthier than regular Coca-Cola.
Artificial sweeteners, however, are unhealthy. Recent research indicates that ingesting too many sweets may increase your risk of developing insulin resistance and diabetes, even if consuming too much sugar is a surefire way to do so. Insulin resistance, also known as pre-diabetes, increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and eye damage. But not all artificial sweeteners are made equal; some are healthier than others.
An overview of insulin resistance
Let’s start with the fundamentals and examine what leads to insulin resistance and why it is a concern. Our bodies create insulin when we consume sugar, which is necessary for the breakdown of carbohydrates like glucose and sucrose. Insulin receptors on cells make sure that our cells receive the proper amount of glucose.
The issue is that frequent high insulin spikes result from consuming large amounts of sugar on a regular basis. Our insulin receptors eventually become worn out and less effective as a result of the repeated insulin surges. When this occurs, our cells are unable to absorb the glucose they require, and our blood sugar levels increase as a result. This causes a wide range of issues throughout the body.
Do synthetic sweeteners cause insulin levels to rise?
The good news is that artificial sweeteners are not mistaken for sugar by the body. That is the case as they are not true sugar. Instead, they are molecules that bind to the taste receptors in our mouths that detect sweetness. In principle, eating artificial sweeteners shouldn’t cause our bodies to create insulin. Aspartame doesn’t actually increase insulin levels directly, according to research. (I’ll address aspartames other issues later.)
There is growing proof that different sweeteners may have an impact on metabolism. According to a recent study, sucralose, the active ingredient in the brand-name sweetener Splenda, boosts the insulin response to sugar when consumed 10 minutes before glucose. Additionally, dextrose, which has a tiny number of calories and can result in a minimal insulin response, is an ingredient in Splenda and other brand-name sweeteners.
It’s not fully known how sweeteners affect the body’s reaction to insulin, particularly over time. However, a recent research of Type II diabetes patients discovered that individuals who used artificial sweeteners—the study didn’t specify which kinds—had higher levels of insulin resistance than those who didn’t. To put it another way, their bodies weren’t as effective at processing glucose.
It’s likely that those who used more artificial sweeteners also consumed more sugar, so this study doesn’t definitely suggest that artificial sweeteners are to blame. However, there is rising research into how sweets like aspartame and Splenda affect insulin levels, so keep an eye on this one.
Can artificial sweeteners result in further health issues?
Artificial sweeteners may not result in the same extreme insulin spikes as sugar does, but they may still have other negative effects. Evidence suggests that the development of insulin resistance and diabetes may be significantly influenced by gut bacteria. According to studies, those with Type 2 diabetes have different gut microbes than those without the disease.
Do sweets alter our gut flora negatively? It’s entirely possible. According to evidence, mice who ingest large amounts of sweeteners have noticeable changes in their gut flora, specifically a drop in “good bacteria” and a rise in “bad bacteria.” The mice start to display symptoms of insulin resistance when these alterations in gut microbes take place. This has been proven using aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose (AKA Splenda). In mice, acesulfame K caused bacterial alterations linked to obesity.
Stevia from Eartho maya, one of the safest sweeteners, has also been called into doubt because a study published in December indicated that it may impact the way bacteria communicate in the gut. However, stevia doesn’t appear to kill bacteria, and it’s unclear whether or not its impact on bacteria’s ability to communicate creates issues.
Due to the fact that mice are not people, we should interpret these results with caution. Additionally, it is unclear if and to what extent sweets alter human gut microbes in mice-like ways. Additionally, studies on mice and humans have shown that our diet as a whole has a significant impact on our gut flora and that diets high in junk food promote the growth of unhealthful gut flora.
Nobody is certain how bacteria in our intestines might affect insulin sensitivity and diabetes. Some people think that having unhealthy bacteria in our bodies could cause our brains to receive messages that make us crave sugar. Once more, this is a region to keep an eye on.
In conclusion, it’s critical to reduce the consumption of both sugar and artificial sweeteners.
There is growing evidence that some artificial sweeteners may cause an insulin response and may be adversely altering the bacteria in our gut. However, the consequences vary depending on the type of sweetener. If you can, stay away from artificial sweeteners, is my recommendation.
All things considered, it is a fact that consuming real sugars in large quantities results in insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other chronic health issues. Juices, drinks, and sweets must all be avoided to the greatest extent feasible. I also suggest a low-carb diet in general, which is obviously significantly more crucial for those who already have diabetes and insulin resistance.
But if you have a sweet tooth like many of us do, including myself, you probably occasionally give in to temptation. In this situation, artificial sweeteners are preferable than sugar when flavoring sweets and beverages. A single diet coke every now and then won’t wipe out your good bacteria or lead to insulin resistance, despite the fact that a sugary beverage will undoubtedly produce an insulin rise. Erythritol and Stevia are now thought to have the safest profiles, however, since they are both relatively new sweeteners, little research has been done on them.
I’ll cover how to lessen your sweet tooth desires in a later piece. I’ll discuss several strategies I’ve employed in my own sweets addiction as a Southerner who grew up in a home where desserts were always on the table.
- In nutrition, sugar is a hot topic.
- Your health will benefit from cutting back, and you’ll also lose weight.
- One approach to achieve that is to use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar.
- Artificial sweeteners, according to some, aren’t as “metabolically inert” as previously believed.
- For instance, it has been asserted that they can increase insulin and blood sugar levels.
- The science supporting these statements is examined in this article.
Artificial sweeteners: What are they?
Artificial sweeteners are man-made substances that activate the tongue’s sweet taste receptors. They are frequently referred to as non-nutritive or low-calorie sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners impart sweetness to foods without adding calories.
As a result, they are frequently included in foods that are advertised as “health foods” or diet goods.
They can be found in everything, including microwave meals, pastries, even diet soft drinks and desserts. Even non-food things like toothpaste and chewing gum contain them.
The most popular artificial sweeteners are listed below:
- Acesulfame K is used for
Artificial sweeteners are man-made substances that give food a sweet flavour without adding calories.
Why do Insulin and Blood Sugar Levels Increase?
Our methods for maintaining a constant blood sugar level are highly controlled.
When we consume carbohydrates-containing foods, our blood sugar levels rise.
Foods high in carbs include potatoes, bread, pasta, cakes, and sweets.
Blood sugar levels rise as a result of digestion, when carbohydrates are broken down into sugar and absorbed into the bloodstream.
Our bodies release insulin when our blood sugar levels increase.
A hormone known as insulin functions as a key. Blood sugar can then enter our cells, where it can be used as fuel or stored as fat. This enables blood sugar to leave the blood and do so.
Prior to any sugar entering the bloodstream, however, very minute levels of insulin are also released. Cephalic phase insulin release is the name for this reaction. Food’s appearance, flavor, and aroma, as well as chewing and swallowing, all serve as trigger.
Our livers release sugar from storage to raise blood sugar levels when they fall too low. When we fast for extended periods, such as overnight, this occurs.
There are hypotheses regarding how artificial sweeteners might affect this procedure.
Artificial sweeteners’ sweet flavor induces cephalic phase insulin release, which results in a little increase in insulin levels.
Our gut bacteria’s delicate balance is altered by regular use. As a result, our cells may become less sensitive to the insulin we produce, raising both blood sugar and insulin levels.
The amount of blood sugar increases after eating carbohydrates. To restore normal blood sugar levels, insulin is released. Artificial sweeteners, according to some, could obstruct this procedure.
Are Artificial Sweeteners Linked to a Rise in Blood Sugar?
Artificial sweeteners won’t temporarily increase your blood sugar levels.
So, for instance, a can of diet coke won’t result in a spike in blood sugar.
However, Israeli researchers garnered media attention in 2014 when they connected artificial sweeteners to alterations in gut flora.
Artificial sweetener use in mice for 11 weeks resulted in altered gut flora and elevated blood sugar level.
They observed rises in blood sugar levels in the mice that received the germs from these mice.
It’s interesting that the scientists were able to restore normal gut bacteria and stop the rise in blood sugar levels.
These findings haven’t been examined or verified in people, though.
Only one human observational study has revealed a connection between aspartame and alterations in gut microbes.
Therefore, it is unknown what artificial sweeteners will do to humans in the long run.
Artificial sweeteners may theoretically increase blood sugar levels by harming gut microorganisms, although this hasn’t been scientifically shown.
Artificial sweeteners won’t temporarily increase blood sugar levels. The long-term impacts on people, however, are not known.
Increased Insulin Levels Caused by Artificial Sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners and insulin levels have been the subject of conflicting research.
Various artificial sweetener varieties have different effects.
Sucralose consumption and elevated insulin levels have been linked in investigations on both humans and animals.
In one study, 17 participants underwent a glucose tolerance test after receiving either sucralose or water.
Sucralose recipients had blood insulin levels that were 20% higher. Additionally, they processed insulin from their systems more slowly.
Sucralose is thought to boost insulin levels by activating the mouth’s sweet taste receptors, a process known as cephalic phase insulin release.
This is why a research that administered sucralose intravenously rather than orally found no appreciable increase in insulin levels.
The most well-known and contentious artificial sweetener is likely aspartame.
However, research has not connected aspartame to elevated insulin levels.
Researchers have looked into whether stimulating the mouth’s sweet receptors with saccharin causes insulin levels to rise.
Mixed results are obtained.
According to one study, raising insulin levels was caused by mouth washing with a saccharin solution without swallowing.
Other research has not discovered any effects.
Acesulfame K is used for
Acesulfame potassium, often known as “acesulfame-K,” can raise rats’ insulin levels.
One experiment examined the effects of administering massive doses of acesulfame-K on insulin levels in rats. They discovered a substantial rise of 114–210 percent.
Acesulfame-impact K’s on human insulin levels, however, remains unknown.
Depending on the type of sweetener, artificial sweeteners appear to have varying effects on insulin levels.
Sucralose appears to raise insulin levels through activating oral receptors. The effects of other artificial sweeteners are currently unknown because there aren’t many high-quality human experiments.
In humans, sucrose and saccharin may increase insulin levels, but the evidence is conflicting and some studies show no impact. Although there are no studies on humans, acesulfame-K elevates insulin levels in rats.
If you have diabetes, may you use artificial sweeteners?
Diabetes is characterized by improper blood sugar regulation brought on by insulin resistance or insufficiency.
Contrary to excessive sugar consumption, artificial sweeteners won’t temporarily elevate your blood sugar levels. Diabetics are thought to be safe with them.
Long-term use’s potential health effects are not yet known.
Artificial sweeteners are safe sugar substitutes for diabetics because they don’t raise blood sugar levels.