(NaturalNews) Many people have been persuaded to ditch their conventional, sugar-laden sodas for diet versions, due to the mainstream belief that diet products are healthier. After all, they don’t contain real sugar, so they must be better for you, right? Not so much. Research continues to find evidence that these artificially sweetened drinks are no better than their sugar-containing counterparts. In fact, some people believe that they may actually be worse.
A new study led by Swedish researchers, recently found that even drinking just two cans of diet soda each day can actually double your risk of developing diabetes. They also suspect that sugar substitutes may interfere with intestinal bacteria – which is one potential trigger for the disease.
The research team, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, studied 2,874 adults who were required to maintain a record of their beverage intake for a year. What the researchers found was that consuming two sweetened beverages a day led to two times the risk of developing diabetes. This risk level included both drinks that contained sugar and those that contained sugar substitutes.
Even more shocking, however, was the finding that those consuming five or more artificially sweetened drinks each day were 4.5 times more likely to develop diabetes. The scientists found that consuming sugar substitutes was nearly as bad as taking in the real thing. According to their findings, which were published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, every 200ml of sugar-sweetened beverages you consume equates to a 21 percent increase in disease risk. For reference – 200ml is roughly 6.8 ounces, or just over one-third of a 20-oz bottle.
Comparatively, the researchers found that every 200ml of artificially sweetened drinks consumed raised a person’s risk of diabetes by 18 percent – that is just a 3 percent difference!
The study’s lead researcher, Josefin Lofvenborg, commented on a few different mechanisms through which artificial sweeteners may promote their disease-causing effects. She noted that sugar substitutes may actually increase appetite, and subsequently, lead to weight gain. She also mentioned that they “may cause chemical reactions within fat tissue and with bacteria in the gut.”
There is reason to believe that consuming artificial sweeteners may alter the bacterial populations in the intestines and lead to a reduction in glucose tolerance. Not too long ago, a team of Israeli scientists found that these chemicals can actually affect the bacteria in the gut that are responsible for metabolism. Ellen Ruppel Shell of Scientific American reports, “The Israeli study suggests that artificial sweeteners enhance the populations of gut bacteria that are more efficient at pulling energy from our food and turning that energy into fat.”
Computational biologist Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and one of the two scientists leading the study, believes that artificial sweeteners could be playing a significant role in the onset of obesity and disease, at least in some people. His team decided to investigate the matter further by testing the association on lean, healthy people that normally avoided sugar substitutes. For five days, the subjects were asked to consume the FDA’s maximum amount of saccharin. Of the seven study participants, four of them began to exhibit reduced glucose tolerance and had abrupt changes in their intestinal microbiota. And that was in less than a week; imagine what that stuff can do over a lifetime. The three volunteers who showed no reduction in glucose tolerance also maintained normal intestinal bacteria populations.
While these findings are not inherently conclusive, they certainly do suggest that some people are more susceptible to the negative effects of sugar substitutes than others – and the findings certainly suggest that more research is needed.
In their report, the Israeli team wrote that artificial sweeteners “may have directly contributed to enhancing the exact epidemic that they themselves were intended to fight.” The findings of the new Swedish study indicate that this may just be the case.