Are artificial sweeteners safe for diabetics?

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That small bowl of ‘Halwa’ is awfully enticing, but there is something that holds you back, especially when you are a diabetic. Yes! that something is the sugar and calories in that small bowl of halwa that you cannot risk intaking when you are a diabetic.

Artificial sweeteners can be one of the options for sugars, hence the name sugar substitutes. Artificial sweeteners are sweeter than sugar. These are low-calorie sweeteners and are supposedly said to be safe to use, add sweetness to your food without adding any calories, and grant a choice of sweet food to those people who otherwise cannot consume them, such as diabetics and obese people.

Having said that, there is always a flip side of the coin and it is always a smart move to know both sides before coming to any conclusion.

Artificial Sweeteners Increase the Risk of Diabetes:

Regardless of what has been written above, though artificial sweeteners may help restrict calories, most of them are not at all beneficial in controlling diabetes. In fact, they are likely to increase its risk. Most artificial sweeteners advertise as “diabetic-friendly” or “sugar-free” but research advocates that these artificial sweeteners indeed have the opposite effect on the person taking them.

As per the 2016 study, it was seen that artificial sweeteners increases the chances of developing diabetes even in normal-weight individuals.

One more 2014 study found that these sugar substitutes, like saccharin, have a tendency to change the composition of your gut bacteria. This change in composition can lead to glucose intolerance, which is the first step towards developing metabolic syndrome such as diabetes.

Stevia, which is a sweetener obtained from plants, does not harm the gut bacteria, and is a safer option as compared to other artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame, etc.

Artificial Sweeteners a Cause for Weight Gain:

Since decades, the brands manufacturing artificial sweeteners have been attracting the overweight population by advertising it as non-caloric, FDA-approved sugar substitutes that can safely be consumed without the tension of weight gain. But, just getting approval from FDA does not make artificial sweeteners a healthy choice.

There are ample studies and research that have shown it as incorrect. According to them, these artificial sweeteners:

  • Increase sweet cravings, and you do not think twice before eating another portion, as you assume that it has the safe artificial sweetener and not refined sugar. This overeating results in weight gain.
  • As stated earlier in the article, artificial sweeteners have a tendency to change the composition of your gut bacteria which is an important aspect of weight management.

What is the Safety Rating for Artificial sweeteners?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which is one of the oldest consumer advocacy organizations that provides science-based recommendations on healthier and safer food, puts artificial sweeteners in the category of food products to “avoid,” which means that the product is not adequately tested and is considered unsafe and not worth taking the risk.

Agreed that the artificial sweeteners are zero-calories and zero-sugar, so you protect yourself from the bad effects of these, but what cannot be ignored is that the artificial sweeteners are made synthetically in the labs with numerous chemicals, which our body doesn’t recognize, and hence the side effects associated with artificial sweeteners such as depression, headache, increased risk of cancer, etc.

Conclusion:

With all the recent studies and research on artificial sweeteners, the only takeaway from these is that artificial sweeteners are not the best or healthy sugar alternative. They have been shown to increase the risk for diabetes and weight gain.

One can opt for healthier sweeteners which are more natural. Some examples are,

  • Coconut palm sugar.
  • Date sugar.
  • Stevia or products of stevia like Truvia.
  • Monk fruit extract.
  •  Sugar alcohol.

 

However, it is always a better option to limit your sugar intake than going for sugar substitutes, no matter how safe, natural, and healthy they seem to be. It is just a matter of developing a habit. According to palate research, the more you expose your palate to sweet taste, the more you crave to eat sweet. Diabetes can only be managed efficiently when consumption of any form of added sugar is reduced.

It is best advisable to talk to your treating endocrinologist and your dietitian about switching to any artificial sweeteners as they can guide you better looking at your diabetic condition. The certified dieticians at Dr. Monga Medi Clinic can guide you with the best diabetic meal plan and what food to add to your daily routine so that the sugar cravings are reduced and the need to add artificial sweeteners does not arise.

For patients who cannot visit the clinic, online consultation is also provided through their official website Dr. Monga Medi Clinic.

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