Using Sugar Substitutes in Diabetes

Using sugar substitutes in diabetes are helpful in controlling blood sugar. And there is an added benefit in using artificial sweeteners and that is weight loss- if you are smart about it, according to a recent joint scientific statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association published in the journal Circulation.

“When you use these non-nutritive sweeteners smartly, they will help you cut back on sugar and calories,” says Christopher Gardner, PhD, who chaired the writing group for the joint statement.

The Key Word Is Smartly

Unfortunately, it is a common tendency among those who consume artificial sweeteners to snack on other sugar-laden foods and drinks later in the day in response to their sugar craving. This bad habit undoes the benefit of the sugar substitutes and causes increases in the blood sugar. In reviewing the statement for WebMD, Kris Voight agreed,

The caveat about not overdoing sugary foods later in the day is key…some think having a diet soda gives them permission to have a treat later, she says. To quell sugar cravings, Voight suggests eating a bit more protein to help maintain a feeling of fullness.   webmd.com

America Loves Sugar

The American Heart Association (AHA)  warned in 2009 that Americans eat too much sugar. While the recommendation is that most women eat no more than 100 calories of added sugar a day and men no more than 150 calories, the average American’s daily sugar intake is around 355 calories.

This alarming discovery prompted the AHA to recommend reducing the amount of added sugars in our diets. And that, in turn, led to the question of whether using sugar substitutes could help. So, the AHA asked a panel of experts to examine the role of artificial sweeteners in controlling weight and diabetes.

The experts evaluated scientific studies on six of these sweeteners, Gardner says.

“Five of the six are artificial, while stevia is plant-based,” he says. The other five are:

Acesulfame-K
Aspartame
Neotame
Saccharin
Sucralose

Products with these sweeteners have become much more plentiful. Between 1999 and 2004, according to Gardner, more than 6,000 new products with these sweeteners hit the market.

The experts looked only at whether the alternative sweeteners could help with weight control and blood sugar control. They did not consider whether these products themselves might carry health risks.

“We didn’t address safety,” Gardner says.

The Study’s Conclusion?

The study concluded that there was insufficient data to claim that artificial sweeteners help with weight and blood sugar control. However, they did conclude that there was some data that suggested that the sugar substitutes appeared to help.

The Calorie Control Council is the industry group representing the manufacturers of artificial sweeteners. They were happy to hear of the recently released statement,

Haley Curtis Stevens, PhD, the council president, says: “The Calorie Control Council is pleased that the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association have confirmed that substituting non-nutritive sweeteners for sugars may help people reach and maintain a healthy body weight and that for people with diabetes, non-nutritive sweeteners can aid with glucose control.”

While using sugar substitutes in diabetes may be helpful in controlling blood sugar, remember that artificial sweeteners are not magic bullets and should be used wisely.