Consuming sucralose - a popular sweetening ingredient - in a drink is shown to have the same effect as water on a person's sugar and insulin levels, according to a study reported in Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.
The study was led by Dr Tongzhi Wu, at the University of Adelaide School of Medicine, and funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia. The results showed that neither sucralose alone, or when combined with another no calorie sweetener, acesulfame potassium (AceK), had any effect on insulin secretion or blood sugar.
In the study, Wu and his team followed ten healthy men who drank four different drinks on four different occasions after an overnight fast. The four drinks were water; water with sucralose; water with AceK; and water with both sucralose and AceK. Ten minutes later each one drank a sugar solution.
The participant's sugar, insulin, and GLP-1 blood levels were measured before, and for six hours after, drinking the sugar solution. GLP-1 is a hormone known to slow gastric emptying and has a role in appetite regulation. The results showed no differences in outcomes for any of these measures, whether the men drank plain water, or water sweetened with either or both sweeteners.
"Our findings are consistent with previous reports," the authors state, "Sucralose and AceK, either alone or in combination, have no acute effect on gastric emptying, GLP-1, or glycemic responses after oral glucose in healthy humans."
Dr Wu and colleagues point out that a previous study reported that drinking diet soda increased GLP-1 levels. This result was further interpreted to mean that the artificial sweeteners could potentially impact metabolism and increase a person's sugar levels.
In contrast, Dr Wu noted that, "The design of that study was, however, suboptimal, as the diet soda contained a number of substances such as caramel color, gum acacia, natural flavors, citric acid, potassium benzoate, phosphoric acid, and potassium citrate that were not controlled for." Consequently, Dr Wu and his team chose to give participants in their study sweeteners in water to avoid the potential effect of these other substances on glucose, insulin or GLP-1.
Sucralose is not sugar and the body does not recognize it as such. Unlike sugar, sucralose is not broken down for energy. It is not a source of carbohydrate or glucose, and clinical studies have shown it has no effect on blood glucose levels, insulin secretion or blood levels, glycosylated hemoglobin levels (HbA1c), or blood glucose control.