Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose provide the seductive taste of sweetness without the calories contained in sugar - a seeming win-win for people who need to control their blood sugar and insulin levels or weight.
However, simply tasting or consuming sucralose may affect blood glucose and insulin levels on glucose tolerance tests, scientists at the University of Illinois found in a new study.
The findings suggest that despite having no calories, sucralose may have metabolic effects in some users, said M. Yanina Pepino, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the U. of I., who led the research.
The most important take-home message is that sweet taste in itself may have an impact on carbohydrate metabolism and glucose control. Even though the sample population in our study was small, the findings add to a body of evidence that suggests sweetness should be consumed in moderation, regardless of the calories." M. Yanina Pepino, professor of food science and human nutrition, University of Illinois
The study included 10 people of healthy weight and 11 people with obesity; none of the participants had diabetes or were regular users of artificial sweeteners.
The participants underwent three oral glucose tolerance tests on separate days spaced about a week apart. Prior to one test they consumed distilled water; prior to another, sucralose; and prior to a third test they tasted but did not swallow sucralose.
They performed one of these actions 10 minutes before drinking a solution containing 75 grams of glucose.
The amount of sucralose - 48 milligrams - that the study participants ingested provides a level of sweetness equivalent to that in a typical diet soda, Pepino said.
At each visit, a catheter was inserted into a radial artery to obtain blood samples at regular intervals during the hour before and five hours after the participants drank the glucose. The scientists measured participants' blood concentrations of sucralose, insulin, glucose and other hormones.
Sucralose had differing effects depending on whether participants ingested it or only tasted it and whether they had obesity, the researchers found.
When people of healthy weight swallowed the sucralose, their blood insulin levels decreased modestly during the first hour, and their insulin sensitivity increased by about 50%, said graduate student Clara Salame, who co-wrote the study. Related Stories
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