Diabetes and Artificial Sweeteners
Perhaps you’ve heard the news this week that artificial sweeteners may contribute to weight loss rather than have a slimming effect. What does this mean to people with diabetes?
Reports this week that artificial sweeteners may actually contribute to weight gain may create a conflict in the minds of some people with diabetes.
While living at a healthy weight benefits people with diabetes, it is probably more important to keep blood sugar low. Artificial sweeteners can help you keep manage your glucose levels. Knowing these sweeteners makes it easy to check labels on different products and identify diabetes-safe foods.
There are five artificial sweeteners approved by the FDA. These sweeteners have all been tested extensively in people with diabetes to assure their safety. Some of these sweeteners are calorie-free, while others contain few calories.
Saccharin has been around since the late 1800s. You can find it today in products like Sweet’n Low, Sweet Magic, and Sugar Twin. Saccharin is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. As it passes through the body it does not break down or change at all.
There were concerns about saccharin possibly causing cancer due to some studies on laboratory rats in the 1970s. Scientists conducted numerous studies and concluded that the concerns were unfounded. Now, nutrition experts generally believe saccharin to be safe.
Aspartame is the ingredient in Equal and NutraSweet. People who have difficulty metabolizing the chemical phenylalanine should not use aspartame. Aspartame can lose some of its sweetness if it is used in foods requiring baking or cooking for a long period of time.
Sucralose is the generic name for the brand Splenda. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar and has no calories. Although it is made from a modified table sugar molecule, it adds no calories.
Acesulfame-K is 200 times sweeter than sugar with zero calories. Brand name products that include acesulfame-K are Sunett and Sweet One. As it passes through the body it does not break down or change at all.
Neotame is 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar—depending on how it’s used in food—and is calorie-free. It was approved by the FDA in 2002, and is not yet in many products.
How Do Artificial Sweeteners Affect Diabetes?
Artificial sweeteners like Sweet’n Low, Equal, and Splenda do not increase blood glucose. People with diabetes can generally use them liberally.
However, when they are an ingredient in a packaged snack, they may just be shielding other calories. Remember to read ingredient lists and Nutrition Facts carefully. Sometimes low sugar foods are actually high fat. There are even situations when the low sugar version of a certain treat contains more calories than its original counterpart.