A great deal of controversy surrounds the use of sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners such as Sweet N Low (saccharin), Splenda (sucralose), Nutrasweet, and Equal (aspartame), to name a few. Women, especially, always eager to lose a few pounds, tend to use these sweeteners in their tea or coffee or consume products containing them. As someone with type 2 diabetes, you cannot take chances with your health, so, let’s look at a few facts.
The term sugar substitutes can be confusing. Some labels may carry the word “natural” when the product has been processed or refined, as in the case of Stevia. Some artificial sweeteners may be derived from sucralose, which comes from sucrose or sugar, as in the case of Splenda.
Artificial sweeteners are widely used in a number of processed foods, including candy, sodas, chocolate, jams and jellies, puddings and dairy products. Artificial sweeteners do not raise blood sugar levels the way sugar does, so they may be a good alternative to sugar. However, because of the ambiguous labeling of ingredients, you should check with your doctor or dietitian before using these products.
An article by Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen, MDs, warns that the internet may be sending wrong information about artificial sweeteners. The doctors cite one study that claims, “high doses of saccharin don’t lead to diabetes in healthy adults.” The doctors counter that these claims are misleading for the following reasons:
- Many people with serious health issues consider themselves healthy, when in fact, they may have chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Therefore, they may mistakenly think they can use artificial sweeteners because they are healthy.
- In the US, few people meet the healthy standards the researchers used: a body mass index of around 22, HDL cholesterol in the upper 50s, and a glucose reading in the upper 80s or low 90s. Instead, the MDs state that a whopping 74% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, more than 100 million have diabetes or prediabetes (elevated glucose levels), and around 45 million don’t meet the HDL target.
- Other studies have found that using artificial sweeteners may actually cause you to get diabetes — especially since it gives you a false sense of security that you can use more products containing them.
The doctors’ advice? Do not trick your taste buds with fake flavors and nutrition-empty calories. Get your sugar from whole fruits and 70% cacao chocolate (1 ounce a day).
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