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Re-thinking Sugar Free

With National Diabetes Month just two weeks away it’s a great time to discuss new findings. This is hot off the presses….

Traditionally foods with artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, aspartame and sucralose have been thought to be great low-calorie options for those trying to keep their blood glucose levels in check and/or lose weight. However the National Institutes of Health(NIH) reports that various studies show this NOT to be the case. In fact, the government agency writes in it’s most recent Director’s Blog “long term users of artificial sweetneners tended to have higher blood glucose levels and other parameters associated with diseases like diabetes, obesity and fatty liver.”

The research shows that using these artificial sweeteners actually contribute to glucose intolerance, a condition in which the body does not use it’s glucose and thus the glucose circulates at higher and higher levels in the blood stream. This is an indication of diabetes.

Another surprise for the researchers was that subjects who consumed natural sugar had normal blood glucose levels.

So could cause this paradox? What could contribute to the rise in glucose levels? It turned out that there was a change in the microbes in the intestines of the subjects that consumed artificial sweetners. Gut microbiomes play a vital role in the digestion of the food we eat. Numerous studies showed that these new microbes somehow caused glucose intolerance. The precise mechanism is still undetermined.

The take away? Reconsider natural sweeteners in moderation in order to control your weight and/or glucose levels both of which are vital in managing diabetes.

My scope of practice is the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy. The best way to manage diabetic retinopathy remains good management of the systemic disease.

You can read the entire Director’s Blog at www.directorsblog.nih.gov/2014/10/07