Earlier this year I warned you about the dangers of aspartame-loaded diet sodas. Despite their healthy-lifestyle image they're anything BUT healthy. In fact, researchers have discovered that artificial sweeteners can even cause diabetes.

Now if you missed that issue of Guide to Good Health I know you're probably wondering, "How could that possibly be? They don't even have any sugar in them!"

Well, rest assured, I'm not pulling your leg. And no, I'm not just making this up, either.

Not only did researchers find a link showing artificial sweeteners can cause diabetes, the link was stronger for diet soda drinkers than for those who indulged in the regular full-sugar varieties. It turns out just one cup of the diet stuff a day sent diabetes risk skyrocketing by an astounding 60 percent, according to one study.

And if you're wondering why this is the case you needn't look any further than prime suspect number one, aspartame; because, despite its image as a harmless and helpful tool for dieters, aspartame is anything but.

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition documented that this supposedly inert artificial sweetener monkeys with blood sugars. A fact confirmed later in a second study in which researchers recording fluctuations in both blood sugars and insulin levels.

Insulin levels shot up

But it turns out aspartame isn't the only artificial sweetener we need to be concerned about. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine say that the incredibly popular sweetener sucralose (Splenda) can change how your body handles sugar.

It appears that sucralose, like aspartame, is not inert as we've been led to believe. The sweetener does have an effect on our metabolism.

Obese volunteers were divided into two groups and given either water or sucralose to drink. Each of the participants was then given a standard glucose-challenge test to see if combining the sucralose with the simple sugar would have any effect on insulin or blood sugar levels, showing artificial sweeteners can cause diabetes.

And I'm sure you can already see where this is going.

There was indeed an effect... and it was a surprisingly big one. The sucralose drinkers had higher blood-sugar peaks than the water-only group. But that's not all, their insulin levels also shot up about 20 percent higher as well.

To be doubly sure of their results, the researchers repeated the experiment. But for the second round the groups were switched and the water drinkers got sucralose and the sucralose drinkers were given water. Again the same spikes were seen.

Clearly the body is reacting to sucralose. It's the why that we're not entirely sure about yet... although there are other studies that hint at possible answers.

As I explained earlier this year when I warned you about aspartame's potential effects on blood sugar and insulin, some studies suggest that just the perception that you're eating something sweet could be enough to trick your body into believing it, kicking off blood-sugar changes.

Other animal studies hint that while we were busy trying to fool the sweet food detectors in our mouths we may very well have been missing almost identical receptors in the GI tract and pancreas (the organ responsible for releasing insulin, of course).

Insulin resistance leads to diabetes

More research clearly needs to be done before we have a full handle on why sugar-free artificial sweeteners trigger blood sugar and insulin responses, suggesting that artificial sweeteners cause diabetes. But it's clear that we can't keep treating artificially-sweetened beverages (and foods) like water and expect there to be no consequences.

Constant spikes in insulin can cause your body to become resistant to the hormone. And I don't need to tell you that insulin resistance puts you on the fast track to type-2 diabetes.

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The take away here is a simple one. Artificial sweeteners are wolves in sheep's clothing.

While we don't know exactly how sharp their teeth are yet, things are not looking good, and it's best to kick these questionable chemicals out of your diet for good. If you're looking for a safe no-calorie sweetener try natural stevia instead. And herbal tea and seltzer water make great substitutes for soft drinks.