To study the relationships between artificial sweeteners, accounting for all dietary sources(total and by type of artificial sweetener) and risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D), in a large-scale prospective cohort.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
The analyses included 105,588 participants from the web-based NutriNet-Santé study (France, 2009-2022; mean age 42.5 ± 14.6 years, 79.2% women). Repeated 24-h dietary records, including brands and commercial names of industrial products, merged with qualitative and quantitative food additive composition data, enabled artificial sweetener intakes to be accurately assessed from all dietary sources. Associations between artificial sweeteners (total, aspartame, acesulfame potassium [K], and sucralose) and T2D were investigated using Cox proportional hazard models adjusted for potential confounders, including weight variation during follow-up.
During a median follow-up of 9.1 years (946,650 person-years, 972 incident T2D), compared with nonconsumers, higher consumers of artificial sweeteners (i.e., above the sex-specific medians of 16.4 mg/day in men and 18.5 mg/day in women) had higher risks of developing T2D (hazard ratio [HR] 1.69; 95% CI 1.45-1.97; P-trend <0.001). Positive associations were also observed for individual artificial sweeteners: aspartame (HR 1.63 [95% CI 1.38-1.93], P-trend <0.001), acesulfame-K (HR 1.70 [1.42-2.04], P-trend <0.001), and sucralose (HR 1.34 [1.07-1.69], P-trend = 0.013).
Potential for reverse causality cannot be eliminated; however, many sensitivity analyses were computed to limit this and other potential biases. These findings of positive associations between artificial sweetener intakes and increased T2D risk strengthen the evidence that these additives may not be safe sugar alternatives. This study provides important insights in the context of on-going reevaluation of artificial sweeteners by health authorities worldwide.