Do artificial sweeteners fool your body that it’s about to get sugar and trigger your pancreas to make insulin?
This may seem like much ado about nothing unless you are part of the half of American adults who have type II diabetes or are pre-diabetic.
There are also those who are on a ketogenic diet or are trying to lose weight through fasting.
They are concerned because a 2008 study showed that just the taste of a sweet liquid was enough to change the body’s blood sugar response.
The study had participants just swish their mouths with either sugar water or water with NutraSweet. The randomized group was tested every morning and alternated between real and artificial sweeteners, and the result was a very real and significant increase in insulin production.
This has been tested since 1978 because scientists want to know if diet soft drinks really do help people lose weight.
Back then, the insulin response was not as well-known as it is now. Over the last eight years, scientists have figured out how a heavy insulin spike causes metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver and type II diabetes.
So, there is renewed concern about triggering insulin.
If this study is correct, then having a sweet taste in your mouth is enough to get the pancreas to begin dumping extra insulin hormone in the blood stream.
Since over 50% of Americans have become insulin resistant in the last 20 years, this could become a big issue outside of small niche communities.
The study found: “Plasma insulin concentrations increased significantly after stimulation with sucrose and saccharin.”
The effect seems to be short-lived, decreasing after two minutes.
While saccharin seems to cause the insulin to spike, an earlier study of the artificial sweetener aspartame did not.
In a 1990 study published in the journal “Metabolism,” aspartame could not elicit any changes in blood glucose or insulin.
But there is concern that Americans have increased their resistance to insulin in the last few decades.
In Gary Taube’s book, The Case Against Sugar, the author pointed out that type II diabetes and insulin resistance can actually appear rather suddenly in isolated populations when exposed to the Standard American Diet.
Within one generation, isolated tribes suddenly have all the metabolic problems of Americans once they start eating sugar.
This calls into question studies going back to the 1980s and 1990s. We cannot be sure if our diet then was creating the problems we are seeing now.
The Center for Disease Control is releasing scary numbers showing that more and more Americans are being diagnosed with diabetes, and insulin resistance is growing.
The condition is chronic, that is, it builds slowly over time and is not the result of one exposure to sugar.
So, while there is no direct evidence yet that artificial sweeteners will spike your insulin levels, there is ample evidence for concern.
It is possible to test tissue response to artificial sweeteners, and those tests do show that pancreatic tissue thinks that the sweet but not sugar fluids are the same, but when it is tested with living people, the same result does not occur.
What this means is that this subject is likely to be the focus of study for the next few years and unfortunately there isn’t a clear answer right now.
What is possible is if you have a glucose monitor, you can check your own blood glucose and see if your body thinks it is getting sugar after drinking a diet soda.
Before you eat for the day, test your blood glucose, and then drink a diet soda. Then check again. Your response to this stimulation may be very different than some studies.
And if you do test this, please share your results in the comment section for others.