Ask The Expert: All About Artificial Sweeteners
Updated: Mar 24
In order to control blood glucose levels and maintain an overall healthier lifestyle, individuals may choose to establish health goals that involve less sugar. Artificial sweeteners can be controversial, and there are so many options on the market.
How can we know which ones are best and how they affect our bodies?
We sat down with Diabetes Clinical Director, Maria Wagner BSN, RN, CDCES, to learn more.
In short, artificial sweeteners can be much sweeter than sugar itself, so a little goes a long way. This can help reduce how many calories you consume. Additionally, the body does not absorb artificial sweeteners in the same way as sugar, making it less of a concern for weight gain or glucose fluctuations.
Artificial sweeteners make healthy eating more flexible, and they don't count towards one’s daily carbohydrate allotment. You can often find ones that are compatible with baking, so you can even make some of your favorite desserts with less calories.
While artificial sweeteners do have fewer carbohydrates or calories, the foods they are in likely have calories and carbs that come from other ingredients. Claims like “sugar-free,” “reduced sugar” or “no sugar added” do not necessarily mean carb-free. For this reason, you should always carefully read the nutrition facts label to understand how many carbs and calories you are eating.
Using sugar substitutes doesn’t make an unhealthy choice healthy.
It just makes it less unhealthy.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association have all issued statements indicating that people should use artificial sweeteners cautiously when eaten as part of a healthy diet guided by current federal nutrition recommendations.
“The expert consensus on low calorie sweeteners found low calorie sweeteners to be safe, they reduced sugar and energy intake, and had no adverse effects on sweet preference, appetite, or glucose control. Artificial sweeteners may improve diabetes management, but there hasn’t been enough data on gut health and artificial sweeteners to comment on that aspect.” So, while they are safe to use, they should be used in moderation.
The chart below shows common artificial sweeteners that people use at home:
Sugar alcohol sweeteners occur naturally in foods and are absorbed by the body more slowly than sucrose. So, while they may not be completely calorie-free or carb-free, the slower absorption prevents dramatic spikes in blood sugar. Swerve is a sugar alcohol sweetener that is popular among people eating very low-carb diets – it has zero calories and does not impact blood glucose. However, sugar alcohols can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, gas and bloating in some people, especially if you eat a lot of them.
In conclusion, there is no “best” artificial sweetener. All are okay in moderation, but perhaps concentrating on “de-sweetening” our lives in general is a better option.
Enjoy your sweets, but in small amounts!
Alkon, C. (2020, December 01). How Sweet It Is: All About Artificial Sweeteners and Diabetes. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://diatribe.org/how-sweet-it-all-about-artificial-sweeteners-and-diabetes