New research may confirm what many have thought for some time: artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Equal cause more problems than they solve when it comes to having a healthier diet. A recent study indicates that, for some, artificial sweeteners could lead to type 2 diabetes as directly as eating sugar does.

The research was conducted by scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and has made a huge step in the decades-long debate over whether or not artificial sweeteners can cause diabetes.

It has long been thought that since artificial sweeteners cannot be digested, they therefore cannot lead to diabetes. This new study seems to point to microbes in the gut that could be the link to why some research still finds an association between the artificial sweeteners and type 2 diabetes.

The study examined the interaction between gut microbes and consumption of sweeteners aspartame, sucralose and saccharine in both mice and people. Those subjects with certain types of microbes in their intestines saw a two- to four-fold increase in blood sugars after consuming the artificial sweeteners for just a short time. Eventually, high blood-sugar levels can lead to diabetes.

Researchers admit their findings need to be repeated to have more weight, but according to Eran Elinav, who studies the link between an individual’s immune system, gut microbes and health at the Institute, “I think this issue is far from being resolved.” He even said that his research has stopped him from using sweeteners in his daily coffee.

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