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Sweeteners Linked to Glucose Intolerance
Sweeteners and Glucose IntoleranceWe look at new research into a possible link between diabetes and artificial sweeteners.

Sweeteners Linked to Glucose Intolerance

By WLR's Site Manager, Laurence Beeken

What is Glucose Intolerance?

This is a term used to encompass metabolic conditions which result in higher than normal blood sugar levels, e.g. type 2 diabetes.

Can Sweeteners Cause Glucose Intolerance?

For years, researchers have been puzzling over why calorie free sweeteners do not necessarily appear to assist in weight loss - with some studies suggesting that they may even have an opposite effect.

Now, thanks an article in the New Scientist magazine, new research has come to light which highlights a possible link between artificial sweeteners and glucose intolerance.

What was the Research?

Research carried out at the Weizmann Institute in Israel found that artificial sweeteners can cause glucose intolerance in mice, possibly due to a shift in the balance of gut bacteria.

The mice were fed artificial sweeteners (either saccharine, sucralose or aspartame) over a period of time and then fed a high glucose meal to cause a spike in blood sugar.  It was found that those mice fed with the artificial sweetener had a greater sugar spike and took longer to recover than those on a normal diet.

Scientists surmised that the use of artificial sweeteners may therefore be contributing to a rise in the incidence of diabetes.  Subsequent research using human subjects seemed to support their theories.

How Can Sweeteners Cause Glucose Intolerance?

Sweeteners provide no calories because they are not digested, which is why they can be recommended for diets to control diabetes.

However, because the sweeteners pass through the gastro intestinal tract intact, they come into direct contact with the gut flora, and upset the natural balance.  The research showed that it was specific bacteria already linked to obesity which appeared to proliferate.

What has been the reaction to the Research?

Not surprisingly, food industry bodies have denied that this is the case, and have dismissed the research on the basis that you cannot draw a direct correlation between mice and people.

A spokesman for the FSA has confirmed that the agency will consider whether the paper should be brought to the attention of its review panel – no doubt the food industry and medical profession will  ‘watch this space’ with interest.

What is a Glucose intolerance Diet?

The NHS recommends eating a balanced diet rich in wholegrains, fruit and vegetables and low in sugar – ultimately, it doesn’t recommend substituting natural sugars for artificial sweeteners!

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