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How Zero-Calorie Foods Cause Blood Sugar Spike

artificial sweetener

By Kelley Herring

If you were to ask 1,000 people why they drink diet soda or “diabetic-safe” foods made with artificial sweeteners, the vast majority would tell you that it is because they are “watching their weight” or their “blood sugar”.

They choose to consume these products because they have no calories or added sugar.

However, it has never been proven that these foods and drinks help in any way with weight loss or blood sugar control. In fact, it has been shown in many studies they may be doing the exact opposite: promoting weight gain and disrupting blood sugar metabolism.

Recently, epidemiologist Sharon Fowler, from the University of Texas, presented research data to the American Diabetes Association on soda consumption. In her words, “What we saw was that the more diet sodas a person drinks, the more weight they were likely to gain.”

It has been shown that artificially-sweetened drinks increase the appetite unnaturally. Many doctors also believe these chemicals disrupt insulin function.

Now, you might be wondering…

How could foods that have no calories or carbohydrates spike my blood sugar?

It’s Not the Fuel It’s How You Use It

Your metabolism is extremely complex, with hundreds of variables. It is not as simple as “calories in, calories out.”

And not only do we all process foods differently, based on our unique biochemistry and genetics, our individual microbiome also plays a role.

In fact, research shows even “healthy” whole foods like tomatoes can cause extreme blood-sugar fluctuations for some people. This is because certain foods can change our microbiome in a way that alters blood sugar metabolism.

And that’s exactly what researchers at the German National Cancer Center found, published in last month’s edition of Cell.

The Zero-Calorie Sweetener Challenge

The research team screened over 1,300 individuals to find those who strictly avoid non-nutritive sweeteners in their day-to-day lives and created a cohort group of 120 individuals.

These participants were then broken into six groups: two control groups and four who consumed well below the FDA daily allowances of either aspartame, saccharin, stevia, or sucralose.

The researchers discovered that all four non-nutritive sweeteners modified the composition of the microbiome. And two of the artificial sweeteners – sucralose and saccharin – notably impacted blood sugar metabolism.

Lead researcher Eran Elinav said:

We found that two of the non-nutritive sweeteners, saccharin and sucralose, significantly impacted glucose tolerance in healthy adults. Interestingly, changes in the microbes were highly correlated with the alterations noted in people’s glycemic responses.”

The researchers went on to state that the effects of the sweeteners will vary from person to person because of the incredibly unique composition of our microbiome.

Personalize Your Diet, Optimize Your Health

We now know that there is no such thing as a one-size fits all healthy diet. We all react to foods differently. To create your ideal personalized diet for optimal weight and healthy blood sugar, start with an ancestral template…

Base your diet around the nutrient-dense whole foods that naturally keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable including grass-fed beef, pastured poultry and pork, game meats, organ meats, wild seafood, and healthy native fats, like grass-fed butter, ghee, tallow, and coconut oil.  

high-fat, low-carb, high-carb, low-fat
Shop ghee, tallow, wild-caught seafood, pastured meats, and more.

From there, add in above-ground veggies – like organic collards and kale, arugula, peppers, mushrooms, summer squash, herbs and alliums, like onions, garlic and shallots.

Create a food journal, noting the composition of your meals. Then test your blood sugar one totwo hours after meals to see how your food choices are impacting your glycemic control. If you’re on a low-carb diet and experiencing blood sugar swings, analyze your meals for the potential culprits.

By keeping your blood sugar stable and within a healthy range, you reduce your personal risk of chronic diseases. And if you have diabetes, stabilizing your blood sugar can help reduce your risk of developing complications, such as heart and circulation problems.


kelley herring

Kelley Herring

Love comfort foods, but not the carbs? Check out Kelley’s FREE new book – Carb Lover’s Keto – with 100 recipes for all of your favorite comfort foods. From Chicken Parmigiana and Coconut Shrimp to Buffalo Wings and Pizza. Discover how you can indulge – 100% guilt free!


[1] Zeevi D, Korem T, Zmora N, Israeli D, Rothschild D, Weinberger A, Ben-Yacov O, Lador D, Avnit-Sagi T, Lotan-Pompan M, Suez J, Mahdi JA, Matot E, Malka G, Kosower N, Rein M, Zilberman-Schapira G, Dohnalová L, Pevsner-Fischer M, Bikovsky R, Halpern Z, Elinav E, Segal E. Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses. Cell. 2015 Nov 19;163(5):1079-1094. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.11.001. PMID: 26590418. 

[2] Jotham Suez, Yotam Cohen, Rafael Valdés-Mas, Uria Mor, Mally Dori-Bachash, Sara Federici, Niv Zmora, Avner Leshem, Melina Heinemann, Raquel Linevsky, Maya Zur, Rotem Ben-Zeev Brik, Aurelie Bukimer, Shimrit Eliyahu-Miller, Alona Metz, Ruthy Fischbein, Olga Sharov, Sergey Malitsky, Maxim Itkin, Noa Stettner, Alon Harmelin, Hagit Shapiro, Christoph K. Stein-Thoeringer, Eran Segal, Eran Elinav. Personalized microbiome-driven effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on human glucose tolerance. Cell, 2022; DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.07.016

[3] American Diabetes Association Professional Practice Committee; 7. Diabetes Technology: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2022. Diabetes Care 1 January 2022; 45 (Supplement_1): S97–S112.