Diabetes And Artificial Sweeteners – Are They Really As Good As They Say?
If you have Type 2 Diabetes, it is very important to take extra caution in controlling the amount of sugar you intake with your meals. Your dietitian or doctor will often instruct you to cut down your sugar and carbohydrate intake. Of course, this may often require great discipline, especially if you have a sweet tooth. Good news is, there is already a wide variety of artificial sweeteners available on the market. But finding the best ones among the multitude of sweeteners available can be very confusing. Here is a little overview of what artificial sweeteners are and which ones you can use safely in your meals.
WHAT ARE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS?
Artificial sweeteners, also known as artificial sugars, are food additives that do not contain sugar but taste like sugar. Artificial sweeteners are usually sugar substitutes that were not derived from natural sources but produced artificially. For example, one of the most popular and commonly used artificial sweeteners is sucralose. Artificial sweeteners are a popular alternative or substitute for sugar as they contain little to no calories. In the diabetic world, they are used because they provide sweetness without harming your blood sugar levels. The sweeteners are also harder for your body to break down and process, so in many cases, they easily pass the intestinal tract as is, without adding to your calorie load or causing a spike in insulin. (This is not the case for aspartame, however.) Artificial sweeteners are generally sweeter than sugar, although some sweeteners often leave a bitter aftertaste, which is tolerable for some but can be bothersome for others.
Artificial sweeteners are commonly used by manufacturers of products that cater to diabetics and those who are conscious about their weight and the type of food they are eating.
ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS ON THE MARKET
Aspartame is an artificial non-saccharide sweetener invented in the 1980s. It was commonly known through its popular brand names such as Spoonfuls, Sweetmate, and Equal. Aspartame is derived from amino-acids and it is metabolized and digested by the body just like food containing protein. Aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than sugar so only a tiny amount of this sweetener can satisfy your sweet cravings. Although aspartame comes very close to sugar in its taste profile, the taste still differs significantly in how it affects your receptors and how long it lasts.
Aspartame can be found in various types of products such as desserts, different kinds of snack foods, gums and candies, salad dressings, beverages, and breakfast cereals. Because of the way it breaks down, aspartame is not a good sweetener for baking and does not support a long shelf life of a product.
Aspartame is one of the most thoroughly tested food additives on the market. It is currently considered safe, although some studies disproved its effectiveness of use for diabetics and in weight loss. Some studies have associated aspartame with weight gain and heart disease risks. Do consult your doctor before using aspartame in your diet.
Another known sweetener is Sucralose, which is also popularly known as Splenda. It is known to be 600 times sweeter than sugar and is in a crystalline powder form made from sugar. Sucralose cannot be absorbed by the body’s digestive tract so has zero calories. It also does not promote dental cavities. Sucralose or Splenda can be found in most packaged foods, baked goods, frozen foods, and hot or cold foods. It is considered safe to use for diabetics, although a 2018 study has shown that non-caloric (zero calories) sweeteners may be associated with weight gain as opposed to weight loss. Another study conducted by the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health (2008) showed that sucralose may alter the intestinal bacterial environment in your body, increasing your risks of gastrointestinal infections caused by the infiltration of pathogenic microorganisms. There are also reported cases of artificial sweeteners such as Splenda causing drug interactions (also according to the study conducted by the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.) Further research is needed to specify this finding.
While cooking or consuming foods with artificial sweeteners, you should also take in consideration the fact that most of the foods where artificial sweeteners are used will still contain calories. It is true that the sweeteners themselves contain zero calories but the rest of the ingredients present in the food you eat will still contain some calories. Make sure to take special precautions and continue to monitor your caloric intake to be sure.
Although the above-mentioned artificial sweeteners have been approved by FDA and are easily available on the market, my recommendation is that they should only be used to satisfy your cravings for something sweet – occasionally! Not every day. Health experts still advise that these sweeteners should be taken in moderation. Physical activity, along with a healthy diet is still the best way available to reduce weight as well as caloric intake. If you find it hard to fight sweet cravings, you may notice that it is only hard in the very beginning. If you go cold turkey on sugar entirely (including artificial or even natural sweeteners), you may notice that very soon your cravings disappear altogether, and you will find enjoyment in other types of foods rather than sweet foods. This can go a long way in helping you maintain a healthy diet, controlling weight and blood sugar, as well as mood swings.