Food for thought: do diet drinks cause diabetes?

New research suggests the artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks change the way our body processes sugar.

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Sodas and fizzy drinks are full of sugar, which is why many of us choose the diet versions for their low-sugar, or even zero-sugar, claims. But new research suggests that our good intentions could actually be leading us down the path toward diabetes at an alarming rate.

Evidence published in the American Diabetes Care Journal suggests that the artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks change the way our body processes sugar. As explained by the website What Doctors Don’t Tell You, sweeteners have been shown to “cause a sudden blood insulin and glucose rush”. Too many diet drinks could lead to insulin resistance, they suggested.

Previously, besides the toxicity argument surrounding artificial sweeteners, they were thought to have no affect on metabolism, providing a calorie-safe way to enjoy soda. New evidence puts this into doubt, according to a study by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine. They have discovered “receptors in the gastrointestinal tract and pancreas are almost identical to those in the mouth and they respond to anything sweet, artificial or natural by releasing hormones such as insulin”.

A French study carried out at Inserm, in February 2013, that is to be published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has also found an association between diet sodas and an increased risk of diabetes.

The study followed 66,118 women with their beverage habits having been documented over a 14-year period. By the end of the study, 1,369 of the women were diagnosed diabetic and researchers were able to identify a correlation between both their diets and sugar-sweetened sodas and diabetes.

The study also showed that when comparing this established increased risk of diabetes between the soda drinkers, it was the diet soda group that had the highest rate of diabetes, higher than those drinking the regular soda.

In light of this research, it seems we should all be giving the diet sodas a big fat no. This is also compelling evidence that when it comes to sweetness, the best way to go is au naturale.

Laura Holland is a well-being consultant and nutritional therapist. For more information, go to

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