There is well-documented research on the health risks of sugar consumption in terms of child and adult obesity, but studies are ongoing to provide conclusive evidence that non-nutritive sweeteners offer benefits toward weight management or other health benefits. Among the concerns is whether non-nutritive sweeteners raise glycemia—the glucose level in the blood. In a paper published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers at the University of Illinois (U of I) analyzed current research on four of the most popular non-nutritive sweeteners to find a conclusive answer.
They wanted to examine the glycemic response specifically to the non-nutritive sweeteners, so they only included studies in which participants had fasted before consuming the sweeteners. In addition, the sweeteners could not have been consumed as part of another beverage or food in the study. In total, the researchers’ analysis included 29 trials, with a total of 741 participants. The sweeteners represented in the studies included aspartame, saccharine, steviosides, and sucralose. The meta-analysis tracked blood glucose levels over 210 minutes after the consumption of a non-nutritive sweetener.
They found that these sweeteners—overall and at various time points—didn’t raise glucose levels. While they did see a decline in glycemia for some participants (depending on additional characteristics such as diabetic state, age, etc.), they believe this is most likely because of the prolonged fasting, not because of the sweetener consumption.
“It has been assumed in the literature for a long time that non-nutritive sweetener consumption wouldn’t affect your fasting blood glucose levels, but there’s never been a meta-analysis to determine if this is actually true,” said Alexander Nichol, co-author of the study and master’s student in the Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition at U of I. “I see it all the time in research papers where people will mention that non-nutritive sweeteners don’t affect blood glucose levels, and now we hope our study can be used as a reliable reference.”