Diabetes and Artificial Sweeteners: Know Why are Artificial Sweeteners not Good for Diabetics?

Reviewed By: Dr. Sidharth Bawa, MBBS December 22, 2021

Sweet foods acts as a barrier in any diabetic’s healthy and balanced diet. Usually, every person must be consuming less sugar. Yet, having something sweet makes a person happy sometimes. Understanding artificial sweeteners in diabetes is a must if:

  • a person wishes to lose weight
  • a person tries to keep the levels of blood sugar stable.

The supermarket outside comprises a huge range of sweeteners. Hence, it may puzzle a person of buying which one. This article gives a detailed understanding of what are sweeteners, their types, and their role in diabetes. 

A diabetic may always wonder, can I have sweets if my glucose levels are not within range? The answer is “yes.” A diabetic patient tries to satisfy his or her sweet tooth. Then also, it might be difficult for him or her to identify where to go at the grocery store. Options can be sugar-free or low-calorie for him or her. This article helps you choose wisely.

What are Sweeteners?

Sweeteners are components added to a food item for improving its sweetness. They can be classified in different ways: one way of classification is as loosely group sweeteners like sugar or sugar alternatives; while another way is how the sweetener is like natural or artificial.

Types of Sweeteners

A person gives preference to a sweetener having a nutritive value like nutritive sweeteners, while there is another category too i.e., without nutritive value called non-nutritive or low-calorie sweeteners.

Nutritive Sweeteners

Diverse forms of nutritive sweeteners, however, they all consist of carbs and offer a huge number of calories. Generally, they are termed ‘sugars’ or ‘added sugar’, but however they may also be included in the component list of food packaging as glucose, sucrose, honey, fructose, or maltose.

Polyols

One category of nutritive sweeteners is polyols (in other terms, sugar alcohols); and these can be sorbitol, erythritol, maltitol, isomalt, xylitol, or mannitol. These may be natural or artificially produced. They consist of calories and carbs, but have a smaller number of calories and exert less effect on the levels of blood sugar as compared to sucrose (sugar).

Polyols and Diabetic Food Items

Polyols are generally utilized in products that are available under the names, diabetic or appropriate for diabetics. These food products may contain a greater quantity of fat and calories similar to the standard products. Intake of huge quantities of polyols might exert a laxative effect, resulting in loose stools, bloating, as well as flatulence.

Non-nutritive or Artificial Sweeteners

These sweeteners might be one way of lessening the total calorie and carb consumption if a person substitutes them for nutritive sweeteners such as sugar. At times, they can be called ‘artificial sweeteners’ and are generally present in fruit juices, chewing gums, sugar-free or diet foods or beverages, jellies, yogurts, as well as fizzy drinks.

The Sweet Facts

When the sweeteners are being compared, keep the following things in mind:

  • Sugars are naturally occurring carbs and may involve cane sugar, brown sugar, fructose, molasses, confectionary sugar, and honey. Calories are present in them and these are found to elevate the blood glucose levels.
  • Lowered-calorie sweeteners or sugar alcohols. These are present in sugar-free candy and gum. They contain about ½ the calories of sugars and are found to increase the blood sugar levels, even though not as much as other carbs.
  • Artificial sweeteners can also be termed “free foods.” These have no calories and are not found to increase blood sugar levels.

Also Read: normal a1c levels for non-diabetics

Types of Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial low-calorie sweeteners can be:

  • Saccharin: People use it in both hot and cold foods. Avoid this sweetener in case of pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Aspartame: People use it in both cold and warm foods. It might lose some sweetness at high temperatures. Individuals with phenylketonuria must not take this sweetener.
  • Acesulfame potassium: In both cold and hot foods, such as baking and cooking.
  • Sucralose: In both hot and cold foods, such as baking and cooking. Processed foods frequently contain this sweetener.

Read Between the Lines

This cheat sheet can be used to detect which products are sweetened the way a person wishes them to be.

  • No added sugar. No added sugar was added during processing. But the original source can comprise confined sugar, like fructose in fruit juice. Added sweeteners including sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners also may have been added.
  • No sugar or sugar-free. The product is free from sugar. Even though it comprises sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners.
  • Dietetic. The product might have reduced the number of calories.

Read the Nutrition Label to Remove Doubts

It is important to check the “Nutrition Facts” in order to be sure of what kind of sweetener a food product consists of. In the carbs section, a person may see how many carbs the product contains, as well as how much of these carbs are present in the form of sugar or sugar alcohol. The constituent list must consist of any additional sweeteners, may it be artificial, sugars, or sugar alcohols. By having an understanding of artificial sweeteners and diabetes, a person can make better food choices as he or she might balance sweetness with effective blood glucose regulation.

Also Read: Breakfast Ideas For Diabetics

Is it safe to use artificial sweeteners?

With a low to zero-calorie sugar count, artificial sweeteners might appear like a treatment for diabetic patients. However, studies indicate that artificial sweeteners might be counterintuitive, particularly if a person is looking to prevent or manage diabetes. In actual fact, the enhanced intake of these sugar alternatives might associate with an increased risk of obesity and diabetes cases.diabetes and artificial sweeteners

But there is good news for diabetic patients in the form of sugar substitutes such as:

  • stevia
  • tagatose
  • monk fruit extract
  • date sugar
  • coconut palm sugar

Still, a diabetic must keep an eye on his or her consumption for proper glucose management, however, these alternatives are far better as compared to the products available in the market mentioned as “sugar-free.”

Also Read: Indian Diet Plan for Diabetes

Alternative For Artificial Sweeteners

Stevia

Stevia is a low-calorie sweetener. It comes with effective antidiabetic and antioxidant properties. It is FDA approved. Stevia suppresses plasma glucose levels and increases glucose tolerance. In technical language, it is not an artificial sweetener. As, its preparation is from the leaves of the stevia plant.

In addition, Stevia is equipped with the ability to:

  • enhance the production of insulin
  • stabilize the levels of blood glucose
  • enhance the effect of insulin on cell membranes
  • counter the mechanism behind type 2 diabetes and its complications

The most excellent way of taking stevia is to cultivate the plant and make use of the whole leaves to sweeten food items.

Tagatose

Tagatose is another form of naturally occurring sugar currently under study. Preliminary studies indicate that tagatose:

  • might be a potential antidiabetic as well as an antiobesity medicine
  • might reduce the blood sugar and insulin response
  • hinders with the carb absorption

Also, a review concluded tagatose can be “potentially used as a sweetener without major side effects noticed.”

Other Sweet Alternatives

  • Monk fruit extract is quite a good option gaining popularity these days. But no processed sweetener may beat utilizing fresh whole fruit to sweeten food items.
  • Another exceptional alternative is date sugar. It comes from the whole dates (ground and dried). It does not deliver fewer calories. Yet, date sugar comes from the whole fruit with the fiber unbroken.

Also, a person can deduct fiber from total grams of carbs, if he or she counts carbs for meal planning. This provides the net carbs consumed. The more fibrous a food product is, the lower impact it would have on the level of blood sugar.

Also Read: Galvus Met 500 Mg Tablets For Diabetes

Why are Artificial Sweeteners not Good for Diabetics?

Few artificial sweeteners mention “sugar-free” or “diabetic-friendly,” however studies propose that these sugars come with an opposite effect. A person’s body reacts to artificial sweeteners differently as compared to regular sugar. Artificial sugars are thought to hinder the learned taste of the body. This may confuse a person’s brain, which will transfer signals informing the person to consume more food, particularly more sweet foods.

Artificial sweeteners can still elevate the sugar levels

Few artificial sweeteners mention “sugar-free” or “diabetic-friendly”. Yet, studies propose that these sugars come with an opposite effect. A person’s body reacts to artificial sweeteners differently than regular sugar. Artificial sugars hinders the learned taste of the body. This may confuse a person’s brain. This indeed transfer signals informing the person. A person then consumes more food, particularly more sweet foods.

Artificial sweeteners might also add to weight gain

Obesity is one of the top indicators of diabetes. Whereas artificial sweeteners are FDA-approved, it does not indicate that they’re healthy. For diabetic patients looking to manage their weight or sugar consumption, artificial sweeteners might not be a good option. Also, obesity may enhance the risk factors for numerous other health problems including stroke, high blood pressure, and body pain.

Summary

Sugar alternatives do not affect a person’s blood glucose level. Many artificial sweeteners can be thought of as “free foods.” These consist of:

  • not more than 20 calories
  • 5 grams or fewer carbohydrates.

Also, they are not counted as calories or carbs on a diabetes exchange. However, other components in foods with artificial sweeteners may still affect glucose levels.

Also, the latest studies indicate that artificial sweeteners are no longer the healthy options for sugar. They enhance an individual’s risk for:

  • diabetes
  • glucose intolerance
  • weight gain.

If a person is finding a healthier option, try stevia. This alternative sweetener can be one of the best sugar options. It comes with anti-diabetic properties. Also, it has the ability to stabilize glucose levels. Yet, a person must still limit his or her total added sugar consumption. Rather than swapping to sugar alternatives. The more a person consumes any type of additional sweeteners, the more his or her palate exposes to sweet tastes. Palate research indicates that the food a person prefers and craves is the food he or she consumes more often.

FAQs:

Which sweetener does not result in a rise of insulin?

Aspartame, being the oldest and most researched sweetener, consists of zero grams of sugar and does not increase the insulin levels after it’s taken.

What are the ill effects of using sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are thought to result in weight gain, bladder cancer, brain tumors, and other health risks.

Does sweetener result in insulin resistance?

Consumption of artificial sweeteners gives rise to the release of insulin from the pancreas which can be mistaken for glucose (owing to their sweet taste). This enhances the insulin levels in a person’s blood ultimately causing a reduced receptor activity because of insulin resistance.

What are the risks involved in having artificial sweeteners?

These may lower metabolism, may result in ailments, can be neurotoxic, are risky for children, adverse reactions on prenatal development affects the hormone insulin, as well as can lead to weight gain.

References:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-answers/artificial-sweeteners/faq-20058038
  2. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/artificial-sweeteners-diabetes-patients
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/diabetes-stevia#TOC_TITLE_HDR_7

Disclaimer

The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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