Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam
Can Diabetics Use Sugar Free Tablets (Artificial Sweeteners)?
If you have diabetes, you may wonder if you can use sugar free tablets (artificial sweeteners) instead of sugar. Artificial sweeteners are substances that taste sweet but have little or no calories. They are also called sugar substitutes, low-calorie sweeteners, or nonnutritive sweeteners. Some examples of artificial sweeteners are saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, neotame, advantame, sucralose, and stevia.
Artificial sweeteners may seem like a good option for people with diabetes who want to enjoy sweet foods and drinks without raising their blood sugar levels. However, the effects of artificial sweeteners on diabetes are not clear. Some studies suggest that they may have benefits, while others suggest that they may have risks. This article will explain what the research says about artificial sweeteners and diabetes.
Benefits of Artificial Sweeteners for Diabetes
Some possible benefits of artificial sweeteners for people with diabetes are:
- They do not affect blood sugar levels. Unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners do not raise blood sugar levels because they are not digested or absorbed by the body. This means that they do not count as carbohydrates or calories on a diabetes meal plan. Therefore, they may help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels and avoid complications.
- They may help with weight management. Because artificial sweeteners have little or no calories, they may help people with diabetes reduce their calorie intake and lose weight. Excess weight can make diabetes harder to manage and increase the risk of heart disease and other problems. Losing weight can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- They may prevent tooth decay. Sugar can cause tooth decay by feeding the bacteria in the mouth that produce acid and damage the enamel. Artificial sweeteners do not have this effect because they are not metabolized by oral bacteria. Therefore, they may help prevent cavities and gum disease.
Risks of Artificial Sweeteners for Diabetes
Some possible risks of artificial sweeteners for people with diabetes are:
- They may increase the risk of diabetes. Some studies have found that people who consume artificial sweeteners regularly have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who do not. This may be because artificial sweeteners alter the gut microbiome, the community of bacteria and other microorganisms in the digestive tract. The gut microbiome plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels and metabolism. Artificial sweeteners may disrupt the balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut and cause inflammation and insulin resistance.
- They may affect appetite and food choices. Some studies have suggested that artificial sweeteners may increase appetite and cravings for sugary foods by stimulating the reward centers in the brain. This may lead to overeating and weight gain. Artificial sweeteners may also make people feel less satisfied with natural foods that contain less sweetness, such as fruits and vegetables. This may result in a poor diet quality and nutrient deficiencies.
- They may cause side effects. Some people may experience side effects from artificial sweeteners, such as headaches, nausea, diarrhea, bloating, gas, or allergic reactions. Some artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin, have been linked to cancer in animal studies, but there is no conclusive evidence that they cause cancer in humans.
How to Use Artificial Sweeteners Safely
If you have diabetes and want to use artificial sweeteners, here are some tips to use them safely:
- Choose wisely. Not all artificial sweeteners are the same. Some have a lower glycemic index (GI) than others, meaning they cause less spikes in blood sugar levels. Some also have more health benefits than others. For example, stevia is a natural sweetener derived from a plant that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It has a GI of zero and does not affect blood sugar levels or insulin secretion.
- Use them sparingly. Even though artificial sweeteners do not affect blood sugar levels directly, they may still have indirect effects on your diabetes management. Therefore, it is best to use them in moderation and not rely on them as your main source of sweetness. You should also limit your intake of foods and drinks that contain artificial sweeteners, such as diet sodas, sugar-free candies, and low-fat desserts. These products may still contain other ingredients that can affect your blood sugar levels, such as carbohydrates, fats, and sodium. They may also have little nutritional value and make you consume more calories than you need.
- Monitor your blood sugar levels. Even if you use artificial sweeteners, you should still check your blood sugar levels regularly and adjust your medication and insulin doses accordingly. You should also keep track of your carbohydrate intake and follow a balanced diet that includes foods from all food groups. You should consult your doctor or dietitian for guidance on how to manage your diabetes with diet and lifestyle changes.
- Watch out for side effects. If you experience any adverse reactions from artificial sweeteners, such as headaches, nausea, diarrhea, bloating, gas, or allergic reactions, you should stop using them and seek medical attention. You should also inform your doctor about any artificial sweeteners you use and any medications or supplements you take, as some of them may interact with each other.
Artificial sweeteners are substances that taste sweet but have little or no calories. They are considered a safe alternative to sugar for people with diabetes, as they do not affect blood sugar levels directly. However, the effects of artificial sweeteners on diabetes are not clear. Some studies suggest that they may have benefits, such as helping with weight management and preventing tooth decay. Other studies suggest that they may have risks, such as increasing the risk of diabetes, affecting appetite and food choices, and causing side effects.
If you have diabetes and want to use artificial sweeteners, you should choose wisely, use them sparingly, monitor your blood sugar levels, and watch out for side effects. You should also consult your doctor for advice on how to use artificial sweeteners safely and effectively.
Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam, MD, FRCP (London), FACP (USA)
Internal Medicine Specialist
Phone : 85000 23456