Experts present latest evidence about low calorie sweeteners’ effect on insulin sensitivity and diabetes

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Science news presented by experts in dietetics and diabetes at the 10th EFAD Conference

Rotterdam, 30 September 2017 – With the increasing rate of diabetes globally over the last decades, getting evidence-based information around the use of low calorie sweeteners as a means to help reduce excess sugar intake is even more essential than ever. Thus, discussing some of the latest evidence about the impact of low calorie sweeteners’ intake on insulin resistance and blood glucose control at the 10th Conference of the European Federation of the Associations of Dietitians (EFAD) was of utmost interest to the hundreds of dietitians, nutritionists and students in dietetics who attended the EFAD conference this week.

In a session entitled “Diabetes – a pandemic to be managed”, led by the European Specialist Dietetic Network (ESDN) for Diabetes and supported by the International Sweeteners Association (ISA), Prof Fabrice Bonnet, University of Rennes 1, France, presented new findings of an under-publication randomised controlled trial (RCT) of crossover design studying the effect of low calorie sweeteners on insulin sensitivity. Overall, several studies have confirmed that certain dietary factors like increased calorie, fat and sugar intake are associated with enhanced insulin resistance1 . Regarding low calorie sweeteners, Prof Bonnet concluded: “low calorie sweeteners seem to have a neutral effect on insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic adults, meaning that low calorie sweeteners do not affect insulin resistance nor insulin secretion”.

Providing an overview of the latest dietary guidelines for diabetes prevention and management, Dr Aimilia Papakonstantinou, Agricultural University of Athens, Greece, and lead of EFAD’s ESDN for diabetes, highlighted the turn of recent recommendations towards a more patient-centred, individualised approach that takes into consideration patient’s preferences and metabolic goals. While enjoying food is important for all individuals, it is well established that people with diabetes need to manage their overall carbohydrate and sugar intake. In this context, the use of low calorie sweeteners has the potential to reduce overall calorie and carbohydrate intake if substituted for caloric sweeteners and without compensation by intake of additional calories from other food sources2. Presenting outcomes of a recently published systematic review, Dr Papakonstantinou stated: “weighing the totality of the evidence, it appears unlikely that low calorie sweeteners would affect acute postprandially glucose homeostasis3.”

With low calorie sweeteners being a significant aid for people with diabetes, it is important to be reassured that their intake is not exceding the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) levels. Addressing the topic of the dietary intake assessment of low calorie sweeteners by European populations, Dr Séverine Goscinny, Scientific Institute of Public Health, Belgium, presented data of recent studies conducted in Italy and Ireland which confirm that the exposure to low calorie sweeteners among consumers is indeed well below the set ADI’s, which is also consistent with evidence from previous research4.

Overall, medical and scientific associations around the world recognise that, for people with diabetes, low calorie sweeteners remain an option that can aid in glucose control5, 6. From the diabetic patient’s perspective, low calorie sweeteners are considered a helpful tool in that low calorie sweetened foods and drinks offer broader food choices by providing the pleasure of sweet taste.

For more information on diabetes management and the role of a healthy diet and lifestyle including of low calorie sweeteners’ use, please watch the ISA animated video developed on World Diabetes Day 2016 with the scientific support of EFAD’s ESDN for Diabetes by clicking here.

For more information about ISA participation to the 10th EFAD Conference this week in Rotterdam, please click here.

  1. Sugar-Sweetened Beverage but Not Diet Soda Consumption Is Positively Associated with Progression of Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes. Ma J, Jacques PF, Meigs JB, Fox CS, Rogers GT, Smith CE, Hruby A, Saltzman E, McKeown NM. J Nutr. 2016 Dec;146(12):2544-2550
  2. American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes 2017. Diabetes Care. 2017;40(1):S1-S132
  3. Tucker RM., Tan S-Y. Do non-nutritive sweeteners influence acute glucose homeostasis in humans? A systematic review. Physiology and Behaviour 2017; 182: 17-26
  4. Le Donne et al. Assessment of dietary intake of 10 intense sweeteners by the Italian population. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 102 (2017) 186-197
  5. MaCleod J et al. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Nutrition Practice Guideline for Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes in Adults: Nutrition Intervention Evidence Reviews and Recommendations. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2017
  6. Gardner C, et al. Nonnutritive sweeteners: current use and health perspectives: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. (2012) Aug;35(8):1798-808