Background: The influence of artificial sweeteners on metabolic diseases is controversial. Artificially sweetened beverages have been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) but biases and reverse causation have been suspected to have influenced the observed association. In addition, it has been suggested that investigation into the relationship between the frequency and duration of the consumption of packet or tablet artificial sweeteners and T2D risk is necessary. Methods: We used data from 61,440 women in the prospective E3N-European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study, conducted between 1993 and 2011. We estimated hazards ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs of T2D risk associated with both the frequency and the duration of use of artificial sweeteners consumed in packets or tablets. Results: Compared to “never or rare” consumers of artificial sweeteners, those using them “always or almost always” had an increased risk of T2D (HR = 1.83 [95% CI 1.66-2.02] in the multivariate model [MM], HR = 1.33 [95% CI 1.20-1.47] when further adjusted for body mass index, BMI). Women consuming artificial sweeteners in packets or tablets for more than 10 years also had an increased risk of T2D compared to never or rare users (HR = 2.10 [95% CI 1.83-2.40] in the MM and HR = 1.15 [95% CI 1.00-1.33] when adjusted for BMI, respectively). Conclusions: Our data suggest that both a higher frequency and a longer consumption of artificial sweeteners in packets or tablets was associated with T2D risk, independently of major T2D risk factors, but partially mediated by adiposity. A precautionary principle should be applied to the promotion of these products that are still largely recommended as healthy sugar substitutes.

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