Nav: Home

Study: Tasting no-calorie sweetener may affect insulin response on glucose tolerance test

January 31, 2020

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose provide the seductive taste of sweetness without the calories contained in sugar - a seeming win-win for people who need to control their blood sugar and insulin levels or weight.

However, simply tasting or consuming sucralose may affect blood glucose and insulin levels on glucose tolerance tests, scientists at the University of Illinois found in a new study.

The findings suggest that despite having no calories, sucralose may have metabolic effects in some users, said M. Yanina Pepino, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the U. of I., who led the research.

"The most important take-home message is that sweet taste in itself may have an impact on carbohydrate metabolism and glucose control," Pepino said. "Even though the sample population in our study was small, the findings add to a body of evidence that suggests sweetness should be consumed in moderation, regardless of the calories."

The study included 10 people of healthy weight and 11 people with obesity; none of the participants had diabetes or were regular users of artificial sweeteners.

The participants underwent three oral glucose tolerance tests on separate days spaced about a week apart. Prior to one test they consumed distilled water; prior to another, sucralose; and prior to a third test they tasted but did not swallow sucralose.

They performed one of these actions 10 minutes before drinking a solution containing 75 grams of glucose.

The amount of sucralose - 48 milligrams - that the study participants ingested provides a level of sweetness equivalent to that in a typical diet soda, Pepino said.

At each visit, a catheter was inserted into a radial artery to obtain blood samples at regular intervals during the hour before and five hours after the participants drank the glucose. The scientists measured participants' blood concentrations of sucralose, insulin, glucose and other hormones.

Sucralose had differing effects depending on whether participants ingested it or only tasted it and whether they had obesity, the researchers found.

When people of healthy weight swallowed the sucralose, their blood insulin levels decreased modestly during the first hour, and their insulin sensitivity increased by about 50%, said graduate student Clara Salame, who co-wrote the study.

However, when people with obesity swallowed the sucralose, their insulin levels increased significantly more than when they drank water or when they tasted the sucralose but spit it out.

"While insulin responses to either tasting or swallowing the sucralose were similar in those of normal weight, those responses were very different in people with obesity," Pepino said. "Therefore, we hypothesize that some post-ingestive effects of sucralose may occur only in people with obesity.

"However, our study included people who were not habitual consumers of artificial sweeteners, and further studies are needed to explore what happens with this acute effect of sucralose after long-term use."

Pepino cautioned that since the various artificial sweeteners have very different chemical structures and the body may handle them differently - some are broken down in the stomach while others remain unabsorbed in the intestine - the findings on post-ingestive effects may be unique to sucralose.

However, since all artificial sweeteners activate the sweet taste receptors in the mouth, the metabolic effects associated with sweetness may be more generalizable, she said.

Pepino said she had expected that tasting sucralose and spitting it out would have similar effects to consuming water; thus, she was surprised to discover that participants' insulin levels were affected by taste alone.

"Interestingly, we found that in both groups of people - those with obesity and those of normal weight - there was a reduction in insulin response to the glucose tolerance test when they just tasted sweetness before drinking the glucose solution. It was the most surprising finding, and we are following up on that in a new study," Pepino said.

"What our data suggest is that there are mechanisms that we don't understand clearly about how the human body regulates glucose and the potential metabolic effects of tasting something sweet beyond providing a sense of pleasure," Pepino said.
U. of I. alumnus Alexander D. Nichol was the lead author of the paper. Kristina I. Rother of the National Institutes of Health was a co-author.

The American Diabetes Association, the National Institutes of Health and the intramural research program of the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases provided funding for the research.

The study was published recently in the journal Nutrients.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau

Related Obesity Articles:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.
Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.
New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)
Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.
Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).
How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.
Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?
Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.
Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.
Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.
More Obesity News and Obesity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.