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What’s The Deal With Artificial Sweeteners?

Managing diabetes is a near-constant effort, one that requires balance and monitoring everything you eat. Rarely is it possible to consume anything without first considering how it will affect your numbers. There is a common misconception that all of this regulation includes eliminating sugar from your diet altogether, but that's not necessary. What is necessary? Moderation… and knowing which sugars are best for you. Which begs the question: what about artificial sweeteners?

Well, we've got you covered. Here's the lowdown on the “goods” and “bads” of artificial sweeteners.

The Good

Gummy Bears

Satisfying Your Cravings

You can use these low-calorie sugars as substitutes in your favorite snacks and beverages. Opting for artificial sweeteners allows you to reduce carbohydrates, which means satisfying your cravings while maintaining control over your glucose levels.

Less Is More

A little goes a long way. Most artificial sweeteners are around 100 times sweeter than regular sugar, so you only need a small amount to kick the craving.

They've Received the FDA's “GRAS” Stamp of Approval

The FDA has approved 6 artificial sweeteners and deemed them generally accepted as safe (GRAS), which means multiple studies have been performed to verify they're safe for consumption in moderation.

So, what's available?

Sugar

Acesulfame-potassium (AKA, Ace K)

Typically combined with an additional low-calorie sweeter to provide a taste more similar to sucrose.

Uses: Baking, carbonated drinks

Brand names: Sweet One®, Sunett®

Saccharine

While this artificial sweetener was linked to bladder cancer in the 1970s, the FDA later dismissed those claims.

Uses: Canning, cooking, baking, tabletop sweetener

Brand names: Sweet ‘N Low®, Sugar Twin®

How you can spot it: Look for the pink packet.

Stevia

Stevia comes from the stevia plant. Not all stevia products have received GRAS status.

Uses: Tabletop sweetener

Brand names: Stevia®, Truvia®, PureVia®6.

How you can spot it: Look for the green packet.

Aspartame

While studies show that aspartame is safe to drink, the warning label suggests that people with certain diseases should avoid it.

Uses: Foods, beverages, tabletop sweetener

Brand names: Equal®, Nutrasweet®

How you can spot it: Look for the blue packet.

Sucralose

Sucralose is made from sucrose and involves multiple steps which alter the molecular structure of its atoms.

Uses: Baking, cooking, tabletop sweetener

Brand names: Splenda®

How you can spot it: Look for the yellow packet.

Neotame

This product, which is not available in stores, is nearly 8,000 times sweeter than sugar, making it ideal for large food and beverage manufacturers.

Uses: Additive for foods and beverages

The Bad

Soda

Confusing Labeling

Artificial sweeteners frequently boast enticing buzzwords like “natural”. However, these terms are misleading because they don't account for the fact that they are often processed and refined.

Speaking of Misleading Labels…

Make sure you look beyond marketing ploys that tout items as “Sugar Free!” or “Reduced Sugar!” These products often contain more calories and carbohydrates than their original counterparts.

What About Those Cancer Scares Mentioned Earlier?

While artificial sweeteners have been under scrutiny for decades, health agencies, including the National Cancer Institute, have revealed that scientific evidence has not shown a link between artificial sweeteners and cancer and other health problems. However, the FDA, in conjunction with approving the aforementioned 6 artificial sweeteners, has also established an acceptable daily intake (ADI). These ADIs depict a number that is approximately 100 times less than the smallest amount that might cause health concerns.

What does this tell us?

Pay attention to nutrition labels and consume artificial sweeteners in moderation. You can get your sweet fix, but it's crucial that you know what you're consuming.

Looking for other diabetic-friendly ways to satisfy your sweet tooth? Check out these delicious recipes that offer some healthy substitutions in your favorite desserts!

Medianet DBS
L.D. and her ten-year-old lab, Eleanor Rigby Fitzgerald, moved to Seattle two years ago from Tucson, Arizona. They chose Seattle because they heard that's where they kept all the good coffee - plus Ella learned about grass. L. De Mello likes books, music, movies, running, and being outdoors as much as possible.