New Research: Don’t Combine Carbs and Artificial Sweeteners

Consuming carbs and artificially sweetened drinks together can cause metabolic dysfunction, researchers find.

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Energy bars and drinks containing artificial sweeteners instead of sugar might not be a healthy trade after all, suggests research published in Cell Metabolism. Scientists wanted to see whether repeated use of artificial sweeteners might erode your ability to taste sweet things, which could interfere with the way your body processes and metabolizes glucose and carbs and could put you at a higher risk for insulin resistance.

What they found was unexpected: There were no negative brain or metabolic effects in the group that was given drinks containing sucralose (Splenda) or in the group given drinks made with table sugar. However, there were negative effects in the third group, which was given drinks containing both artificial sweeteners and the carbohydrate maltodextrin. “To our surprise, artificial sweetener by itself seems to be fine, but when combined with a carbohydrate, it seems to cause the carbohydrate to be mishandled,” says senior author Dana Small, Ph.D., a professor and director of the Modern Diet and Physiology Research Center at Yale University. “[This combination] could be one of the drivers of metabolic dysfunction.”

More research is needed, but in the meantime, it’s probably wise to avoid eating carbs and artificially sweetened drinks at the same time.