Just came across an intriguing abstract from the current American Diabetes Association's currently ongoing scientific conference
. Basically, researchers took two groups of mice (from a mouse strain genetically predisposed towards diabetes), and fed one group rat chow supplemented with corn oil, and the other group rat chow supplemented with corn oil and aspartame. After 18 months, the group fed aspartame has significantly higher fasting glucose than the controls: 144 mg/dL versus 105 mg/dL. (Just for perspective, that difference is the difference between a diagnosis of diabetes and a diagnosis of prediabetes, although most people with diabetes have much higher fasting blood sugars at time of diagnosis.)
The usual caveats apply: it's mice, not humans, and not a huge group of mice (40 total, and 17 of them died before the study was complete.) However, two additional points seem worthy of note:
- The mice fed aspartame had lower body weights and "more favorable lipid data" (presumably cholesterol and triglycerides) than the control group. Which means that if these mice had been people whose doctors were trying to decide whether to screen them for diabetes, they would have seemed to be at lower risk than the controls.
- The amount of aspartame fed to the mice was 6 mg/kg/day. According to Wikipedia, a can of diet soda contains 180 mg of aspartame. For me to get 6 mg/kg/day would take about 2.5 cans of diet soda a day. Do I drink 2.5 cans of diet soda a day? No, but back in my soda-guzzling days, I did easily. As a person with a genetic predisposition towards diabetes, I am not amused.
I don't actually drink much diet soda these days. It wasn't even a conscious health decision - about the same time I started running, plain water just started to seem more appealing as a way of quenching my thirst. I wouldn't necessarily make a major dietary shift based on just one study, but this study does make me feel good about the shift I've already made.