Guzzling diet soft drinks may seem like an easy workaround if you can't kick soda but want to fend off health problems spurred by sugar. A new study presented at the Experimental Biology conference over the weekend suggests otherwise—specifically when it comes to diseases like Type 2 diabetes. Gizmodo reports on research presented by Brian Hoffmann and his team, which carried out what a press release says is the largest study yet to follow the body's biochemical changes after consumption of both sugar and artificial sweeteners. For three weeks, scientists fed rats either high doses of fructose and glucose (two natural sugars), or the zero-calorie artificial sweeteners aspartame and acesulfame potassium. In the end, all the rats exhibited biochemical changes in their blood that are often seen as precursors to diabetes and obesity.
Hoffmann notes sugars and artificial sweeteners appear to act differently on the body, though: Excess sugars likely overwhelm the system, while artificial sweeteners seem to change the metabolism of fat and energy. Forbes notes the study hasn't yet been peer-reviewed, no human studies have been done, and the research showed only changes that could lead to diabetes, not that the rats actually developed it. Meanwhile, Hoffmann doesn't want to scare anyone off their occasional indulgence. "If you enjoy your diet soda here and there, than have your diet soda here and there," he tells Gizmodo. "It's when people start to chronically consume these … that we should start to be concerned. Because you're starting to introduce these biochemical changes and the body has no time to recover." (Stroke and dementia may also result from too much diet soda.)