A recent study by Yale researchers published in the journal Cell Metabolism was designed to test the theory that consuming sweet foods and beverages without calories could lead to weight gain, glucose intolerance and diabetes. It was hypothesized that sweet foods without calories separate the sweet taste from energy intake, which results in a diminished physiological response to sugar that would be the trigger for the abovementioned problems.
Low-calorie sweeteners are bad when combined with real sugar
The study revealed that people who consumed either a beverage with low-calorie sweeteners only or beverages with real sugar only showed no changes in the brain or metabolic response to sugar. On the other hand, the study also showed that those who consumed beverages with low-calorie sweeteners combined with real sugar experienced problematic metabolic and neural responses.
“The subjects had seven low-calorie drinks, each containing the equivalent of two packages of low-calorie sweetener Splenda, over two weeks,” said senior author Dana Small, professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of the Modern Diet and Physiology Research Center. “When the drink was consumed with just the low-calorie sweetener, no changes were observed; however, when this same amount of low-calorie sweetener was consumed with a carbohydrate added to the drink, sugar metabolism and brain response to sugar became impaired.”
Diet soda without fries
The new study demonstrated that the original hypothesis is wrong. It suggests that consuming low-calorie sweeteners with a carbohydrate, not alone, impairs metabolism.
“The bottom line is that, at least in small quantities, individuals can safely drink a diet soda, but they shouldn’t add French fries. This is important information, particularly for people with diabetes who shouldn’t consume sugars,” Small said.