Nowadays, the use of artificial sweeteners has increased tremendously. Not only diabetes patients rely on artificial sweeteners, but weight watchers and health conscious people use them as well. The tremendous usage of artificial sweeteners has been noted, because people don’t want to compromise with the intake of sweets in their diets and at the same time maintain a healthy waistline.
Sunita Pathania, Sr. Registered Dietician and Diabetes Educator, Healthy Living Diet Clinic, Mumbai clears the dilemma of whether artificial sweeteners can affect blood sugar, by explaining the link between artificial sweeteners and blood sugar level
Sunita defines artificial sweeteners as sugar substitutes, which offer the sweetness of sugar but without calories. Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than sugar, so be careful with the amount you are using to sweeten foods. As artificial sweeteners are without calorie, foods made with artificial sweeteners may have fewer calories than those made with sugar.
Today artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes are found in a varied range of food and beverages which are marketed as "sugar-free" or "diet.” This includes soft drinks, baked goods, ice creams and yoghurt.
In fact, even in Indian local markets, we find many sweet shops selling Indian sweets (mithais) using artificial sweeteners so that diabetics can enjoy them during their festivities, but of course, in moderation. But 'no sugar' mithais, don’t mean that a diabetic person can eat as much as he wants. Gorging even sugar free food items beyond limit can affect blood sugar level, because even sugar free items surely contains a lot of other ingredients which can increase the blood sugar level.
Sunita recommends that a diabetic should use artificial sweeteners safely in right amounts in order to prevent raise in blood sugar level. Most artificial sweeteners are considered "free foods" because they are not counted as a carbohydrate, a fat or any other diabetes exchange. But that doesn’t mean, other ingredients in the food won’t play around with your blood sugar level.
Also, a diabetic person should be cautious with sugar alcohols like mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. "Sugar alcohols (polyols) are carbohydrates that occur naturally in certain fruits and vegetables, but they also can be feigned", points Sunita.
Consuming these sugar alcohols can affect your blood sugar level. Besides, it can also cause bloating, gas or diarrhea in some people. These sugar alcohols are not considered intense sweeteners, because they are not sweeter than sugar. In fact, some are less sweet than sugar. Sugar alcohols are commonly used to flavor sugar-free gum and candy, but they're used in other food and drink products as well.
As sugar alcohols, are lower in calories than regular sugar; this makes them an attractive alternative. Though the numbers of calories from sugar alcohols are low, yet a diabetic patient has to remember that moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle.
The most artificial sweeteners for diabetes patients are:
• Saccharin (Sweet'N Low)
• Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)
• Acesulfame potassium (Sunett)
• Sucralose (Splenda)
So the next time you buy a bottle for you, don't forget to read the label! These artificial sweeteners are considered safe for general public and are also low calorie sweeteners for diabetic patients – according to The American Diabetes Association.
Artificial sweeteners may be a good alternative to sugar if you have diabetes. But in order to avoid complications, always check with your doctor or dietitian about using any sugar substitutes if you have diabetes.
*Images courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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