5. Attention! Artificial Sweeteners not quite inert in metabolism and insulin levels

A new study finds that the artificial sweetener sucralose can actually alter the way your body handles sugar. Sucralose-sweetened drinks caused participants' blood sugar and insulin levels to jump higher than when they only drank water. The findings dispel the notion that the calorie-free sweetener is 'inert' with no effect on the body, researchers said.

The research team analyzed sucralose's effect on 17 severely obese people who do not have diabetes and don't use artificial sweeteners regularly. Subjects consumed either water or a sucralose-sweetened drink before performing a glucose challenge test to see what impact the sweetener had on insulin and blood sugar levels.

Several recent studies suggest that Non Nutritive Sweetners (NNS) are not physiologically inert. First, it has been demonstrated that the gastrointestinal tract and the pancreas can detect sugars through taste receptors and transduction mechanisms that are similar to those in identified in taste cells in the mouth. Second, NNS induced activation of gut sweet taste receptors in isolated duodenal L cells and pancreatic b-cells triggers the secretion of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and insulin respectively.Third, data from studies conducted in animal models demonstrate that NNS interact with sweet taste receptors expressed in enteroendocrine cells to increase both active and passive intestinal glucose absorption by up regulating the expression of sodium dependent glucose transporter isoform and increasing the translocation of GLUT2 to the apical membrane of intestinal epithelia.

"Our results indicate that this artificial sweetener is not inert – it does have an effect," said study lead Dr. M. Yanina Pepino, of Washington University's Center for Human Nutrition. "And we need to do more studies to determine whether this observation means long-term use could be harmful."

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