Not only are regular soft drinks (those sweetened by sugar) blamed for overeating and obesity, some studies have also pointed the finger at artificial sweeteners. But a new study, published in the journal Diabetes Care undermines such conclusions.
Dr. Tongzhi Wu and colleagues from the University of Adelaide, Australia, assessed the effect of two sweeteners commonly used in diet soft drinks sucralose and acesulfame potassium (AceK) on several metabolic parameters in a group of 10 healthy young men with normal BMIs.
The researchers noted that a previous study had found that diet beverage consumption interacted with intestinal sweetness receptors that increased the level of GLP-1, an intestinal hormone. This hormone slows gastric emptying and reduces appetite when glucose is consumed. Thus the result of the earlier study was interpreted to mean that the artificial sweeteners were metabolically active.
Dr. Wu and colleagues pointed out, however, that in the previous study there were many ingredients in the beverages other than the sweeteners, which made interpretation uncertain. Thus, they provided their subjects with the sweeteners in water in order to determine if the earlier work really showed the effects of the sweeteners. After an overnight fast, the participants were given either plain water or water sweetened with sucralose or AceK, or both sweeteners, on each of 4 separate occasions. Ten minutes later each one drank a glucose solution. The levels of glucose, insulin, and GLP-1 in their blood were tracked for the next 6 hours.
There were no differences in any of these parameters whether the subjects drank plain water, or water sweetened with either or both sweeteners.
ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava commented, While this is a very small study, it was well-designed. It certainly doesn t support the theory that these artificial sweeteners are metabolically active or likely to be obesogenic, at least in the short term. Longer-term and larger studies in other groups of subjects are certainly in order to further clarify the issue of any effects of artificial sweeteners.