- Chitra Papnai
People with diabetes should avoid sugar altogether. However, some people will try to satisfy their sugar cravings by using sugar substitutes’- natural sweeteners or artificial sweeteners. Experts warn that artificial sweeteners can be dangerous and should only be used with the approval of your nutritionist or diabetologist. Even natural alternatives like sugar, alcohol, stevia, etc. Diabetes management should also be considered.
Edwina Raj is the head of clinical nutrition and dietetics at Aster CMI Hospital in Bengaluru. She says nutritionists must decide how much artificial or natural sweeteners should be allowed, considering diabetics’ sugar levels and other health conditions. She adds that research has shown that excessive sugar use could cause issues in the gut and even cancer.
Ishi Khosla, a Delhi-based clinical nutritionist, says sugar substitutes can be classified as nutritive or non-nutritive sweeteners.
- Aspartame: Khosla states that aspartame is 4 kilocalories per Gram and 200 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). Diabetes can still eat aspartame because it has virtually no calories.
- AcesulfameK: This artificial sweetener has a sweetness 200 times greater than sugar. The body can’t digest it, so it doesn’t provide energy. It can be found in chewing gum, powdered beverages, and mixes (such as cake, dessert, etc.). It is also found in non-dairy creamers and chewing gum. AcesulfameK is safe to use in baking and cooking, as heat doesn’t affect it.
- Saccharin – This sweetener that is not nutritional is about 550 times sweeter than sucrose. It is also used in certain medicines to reduce bitterness. It can also be used to sweeten beverages, chewing gums, toothpaste, and baked goods.
- Sucralose: Khosla explains how sucralose is made of sucrose. The resulting compound, however, is not edible and is 600 times sweeter than sucrose. It is calorie-free because its chemical structure changes due to chemical reactions.
Natural sweeteners or nutritive sweeteners
Many natural sweeteners, such as honey, dates, and jaggery, are considered to be sugar substitutes. Experts disagree and say that none of these sweeteners suit people with diabetes.
Dr Ashwitha Shruti Dass is a consultant diabetologist at Manipal Hospital in Bengaluru. She explains that people often need to correct the mistake of replacing refined sugar with honey or jaggery, which doesn’t lower the calorie count. Dr. Dass says that honey and jaggery may contain minerals and vitamins, but they are not sugar-free for people with diabetes.
Nutritionists recommend that you use monk fruit and stevia in moderation. Stevia, which comes from the stevia plants, contains sweet-tasting compounds called Steviol glycoside. These compounds are extracted from the leaves of the plant and then purified. Dr. Dass states that people with diabetes can safely consume stevia in their beverages.
Monk fruit is 250 times sweeter than sugar. This fruit is low in calories and can be used to replace sugar.
Sugar alcohols are organic compounds extracted from fruits, vegetables, and berries. Khosla explains that sugar alcohols such as xylitol (orbital), mannitol, mannitol, and maltitol can be found in foods and used as an additive in sugar-free products like gums, chocolates, and mints.
They are not fully digestible or absorbed by the body, even though they are nutritional sweeteners. They have half to one-half the calories of other sugars.
Be careful with sweeteners.
Dr. Dass says that people shouldn’t be reckless and overuse sweeteners. Dr. Dass explains that excessive sugar and alcohol in the daily diet can lead to gastric problems like bloating.
Khosla says that sorbitol and mannitol come with a warning label on the package, which states that excessive consumption could cause laxative effects. Women during pregnancy or lactation should not consume sweeteners.
Khosla says that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed in 1977 to ban saccharin from foods. This was based on extensive research. Khosla says that saccharin-containing products on the market had to have a warning label about the dangers of saccharin for animals. However, it was eventually removed in 2000.
Researchers also found that despite having a lower calorie intake, artificial sweeteners may not be beneficial for people with diabetes.
- Sugar substitutes, especially artificial sweeteners, should be avoided by people with diabetes.
- Experts agree that natural sweeteners are not always a better choice for sugar, even though they exist.
- Sugar-free is best for people with diabetes.