Artificially sweetened drinks put people at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than other sugary foods, a new study warns.
Products with added fructose introduce excess ‘nutrient poor’ energy into our diet, researchers found – inflicting a harmful effect on blood sugar levels.
The Canadian research team found no risk associated with food and drinks that have naturally-occurring fructose – such as whole fruits, vegetables, natural fruit juices and honey.
However, sweet drinks do something different: they are made with ingredients that powercharge the fructose, sending our blood sugar levels wild.
Previously, it was unclear whether avoiding food where free sugars occur naturally could also be beneficial.
The current advice is just to reduce the amount of foods such as soft drinks, breakfast cereals, baked goods, sweets and desserts where ‘free sugars’ are added.
Researchers at St Michael’s Hospital and Toronto University in Canada compiled results from 155 studies that looked into how different foods containing fructose sugars affects blood glucose levels in people with and without diabetes.
The team found that most foods containing fructose sugars do not have a harmful effect on blood glucose levels as long as they do not provide excess calories.
Fruit and fruit juice may even have beneficial effects on blood glucose and insulin control – especially in people with diabetes.
But foods that add excess ‘nutrient poor’ energy to the diet, especially sweetened drinks and fruit juice, seemed to have the most harmful effects on participant’s health.
The researchers explain the higher fiber content of fruit may help explain the improvements in blood glucose levels as it slows down the release of sugars.
Study lead author Dr. John Sievenpiper said: ‘These findings might help guide recommendations on important food sources of fructose in the prevention and management of diabetes.
‘But the level of evidence is low and more high quality studies are needed.’
He added: ‘Until more information is available, public health professionals should be aware that harmful effects of fructose sugars on blood glucose seem to be mediated by energy and food source.’