Associations of diet soda and non-caloric artificial sweetener use with markers of glucose and insulin homeostasis and incident diabetes: the Strong Heart Family Study

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2020 Feb;74(2):322-327. doi: 10.1038/s41430-019-0461-6. Epub 2019 Jun 28.


Background/objectives: Non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) are marketed as healthier alternatives to sugar, but the relationship between consumption of NAS and development of diabetes is unclear. This study assessed the associations of diet soda and NAS consumption with (1) early markers of insulin and glucose homeostasis (cross-sectionally) and (2) incident diabetes (over an average of 8 years of follow-up) among American Indians, a population with high rates of obesity.

Subjects/methods: The study population included Strong Heart Family Study participants without cardiovascular disease or diabetes who participated in the 2007-2009 study exam (n = 1359). Diet soda and NAS consumption were assessed using a Block food frequency questionnaire and supplemental NAS questionnaire at the study exam. Fasting plasma glucose and insulin were measured during the study exam after a 12-h overnight fast. Participants were followed for incident diabetes through December 2017 using a single phone interview and medical record review; diabetes was identified by self-report and confirmed by documentation in medical records. Associations of diet soda and NAS consumption with fasting insulin, glucose, and incident diabetes were assessed using generalized estimating equations (fasting insulin and glucose analyses) and parametric survival models with Weibull distributions (incident diabetes analyses).

Results: Just under half of participants reported regularly consuming diet soda (40%) or using NAS to sweeten their beverages (41%). During an average 8 years of follow-up, we identified 98 cases of incident diabetes. After correction for multiple comparisons, there were no statistically significant associations of reported diet soda and NAS consumption with fasting insulin, fasting glucose, or incident diabetes.

Conclusions: Although reported consumption of diet soda and NAS were high, neither were associated with diabetes risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural