Artificial Sweeteners Provoke High Risk for Diabetes

September 22, 2014 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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 Artificial Sweeteners Provoke High Risk for Diabetes
The prestigious journal Nature released headline making news just a few days ago. It made mainstream news in USA Today September 17, 2014 edition. Researchers identified powerful information that demonstrated markedly high risk for diabetes or metabolic syndrome for those consuming non-caloric artificial sweeteners. This is a wake-up call for the millions consuming the “safe” alternatives to natural sweeteners.

Several studies were done in both mice and people looking at the effects of artificial sweetener intake (aspartame, sucralose, and saccharine) and the interaction with gut microbes. These artificial sweeteners are not digestible and must be dealt with by gut microbes. Researchers investigated why some individuals seemingly handled these food and beverage sweeteners without consequence, while others developed diabetes. They determined results depended on the balance of gut microbes. Individuals with imbalanced gut microbes who consumed artificial sweeteners saw an immediate two to fourfold increase in blood sugars. This is a dangerous and dramatic increase risk, and over time, leads to metabolic syndrome and diabetes and other consequences.

Elevated blood sugar is also markedly associated with risk of dementia even in individuals without diabetes or prediabetes. A landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that even in non-diabetics, minor incremental increases in fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C led to profound risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Hemoglobin A1C values reflect the balance of your blood sugar from the previous 2-3 months and should be under 5.5. The study showed that having hemoglobin A1C levels at the high end of optimal (5.6) led to measurable brain shrinkage in the hippocampus and neurodegeneration. This correlates with fasting blood sugars that were in the “normal range” of 90-100. For each incremental tenth of percentage increase in hemoglobin A1C, more brain shrinkage and neurodegeneration risk occurred. This created earthquake magnitude neurodegenerative effects even in non-diabetics. The breakdown and risk is obviously much higher in diabetics.

Given these two studies, it is clear. We absolutely must pay attention to the sweeteners and carbohydrates that we take in our diet. This is across the board for everyone – children of all ages, adults, and elderly. Substituting artificial for natural sweeteners, consuming high glycemic index foods, and sedentary lifestyles are all fast tracks to diabetes and dementia. While researchers say more studies need to be done, there are grave risks that occur with sweetener consumption. In the press release surrounding the artificial sweeteners leading to diabetes article, at least one of the authors (Eran Elinav) admitted that he chose to abruptly stop his extensive daily use of artificial sweeteners as a result of this study. That should be food for thought for everyone who uses these products. What are you going to choose today?

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