Here We Go: Artificial Sweeteners May Lead to Diabetes

Artificial sweeteners may set the stage for diabetes in some people by hampering the way their bodies handle sugar, according to results of a study released Wednesday by the journal "Nature" (Photo: Jenny Kane, AP)

Artificial sweeteners may set the stage for diabetes in some people by hampering the way their bodies handle sugar, according to results of a study released Wednesday by the journal “Nature” (Photo: Jenny Kane, AP)

Reaching for artificial sweeteners to avoid sugar may be trading one evil for another, a new study suggests.

For some people, artificial sweeteners may lead to type 2 diabetes as directly as eating sugar does, according to the research, published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The benefits and risks of artificial sweeteners have been debated for decades. Some studies show no link to diabetes and others suggest there is one. The new research, from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, finds that differences in gut microbes may explain why some people can handle artificial sweeteners just fine while in an unknown percentage of others the sweeteners lead to diabetes.

The human digestive system is home to millions of microbes, largely bacteria, that help digest food and may play a role in health.

The researchers were quick to note that their work needs to be repeated before it’s clear whether artificial sweeteners truly can trigger diabetes.

“I think this issue is far from being resolved,” said Eran Elinav, who studies the link between an individual’s immune system, gut microbes and health at the Weizmann Institute.

He admitted that his research has soured him on sweetening the coffee he needs to get through his day.

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SOURCE: Karen Weintraub
Special for USA TODAY

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