Although many products today are sweetened with zero-calorie sweeteners, obesity rates have continued to rise, leading some to hypothesize that zero-calorie sweeteners may contribute to obesity in other ways. Some have suggested that artificial sweeteners may trigger insulin release, which could lead to weight gain.
The authors of this latest study pointed out that “some epidemiological and animal evidence indicates an association between weight gain or insulin resistance and artificial sweetener consumption”.
Insulin resistance is a condition in which a person produces insulin, but their body does not use it efficiently to break down blood sugar, thereby raising their chances of developing diabetes and heart disease.
However, the American Dietetic Association has said that zero-calorie sweeteners could play a useful role in improving dietary compliance by increasing palatability of foods without adding calories.
The study’s authors, from Iowa State University, gave eight normal-weight female volunteers one of three drinks – sucrose in water, sucralose in water, or both sucrose and sucralose in water – and took blood samples at fasting, and 30 and 60 minutes after consumption. They were then given a standardized breakfast and blood samples were taken 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes after breakfast. Samples were tested for glucose, insulin, glucagon (a hormone that raises blood glucose levels), triglycerides (which tend to be raised in response to carbohydrates and fatty foods), and the hunger hormone acylated ghrelin.
They found that consumption of the sucralose solution was similar to water alone in terms of hunger and the body’s response to glucose.
“Sucralose showed no significant differences compared with water and was significantly different than sucrose,” they wrote. “… Our data imply that sucralose may be a relatively inert option when used to increase palatability or lower the energy density of foods.”
The authors chose to examine the body’s response to sucralose because it has a structure more similar to sucrose than any other artificial sweetener.
Source: Nutrition Research
Vol. 31, Iss. 12, December 2011, pp. 882-888
“Short-term consumption of sucralose, a nonnutritive sweetener, is similar to water with regard to select markers of hunger signaling and short-term glucose homeostasis in women”
Authors: Andrew W. Brown, Michelle M. Bohan Brown, Kristine L. Onken, Donald C. Beitz