Middle-aged women who drink artificially sweetened beverages, or so-called "light" or "diet" drinks, have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a study to be published in the March edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found.
The research, conducted by France's National Institute of Health and Medical Research, covered over 66,000 middle-aged women, tracking their dietary habits and health between 1993 and 2007.
The researchers found that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is higher for women who drink sugar-sweetened and artificially-sweetened beverages than for those who do not consume such drinks.
However, the study also showed that the risk was even higher for women who drink artificially sweetened beverages than for those who consumed soft drinks with sugar added. Half a litre of “light” drinks per week increased the risk of developing diabetes by 15%, while the consumption of 1.5 litres per week resulted in 59% higher risk.
In addition, it was found that women drank 2.8 glasses of diet drinks per week on average compared with just 1.6 glasses of drinks with sugar added per week. There was no link between the consumption of 100% natural squeezed fruit juices and diabetes risk.
According to the researchers, the relationship between light drinks and diabetes can be explained partially by the fact that women who consume such drinks usually crave other sweet things. Furthermore, aspartame, one of the main artificial sweeteners used today, causes an increase in glycaemia and consequently a rise in insulin levels in comparison to that produced by sucrose.