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Low-Calorie Sweetener for Diabetics

Confused about Low-Calorie Sweeteners for People with Diabetes?

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

It’s no wonder you may be confused by all the recent chatter questioning the use of low calorie sweeteners for diabetes management. As a dietitian and diabetes educator let me try to sort this out and assure you that using low calorie sweeteners and, SPLENDA® Sweeteners specifically, are suitable for people with diabetes. And if you use them wisely, they may even help you reach your diabetes management goals.

You might have seen recent media headlines about a study that was done at Washington University in St Louis. This was a small study done in 17 very overweight people who didn’t have diabetes and made enough insulin to cover their needs. This study looked at the study subjects’ blood glucose response with an oral glucose tolerance test, after the subjects drank either distilled water or water with sucralose (the no calorie sweetener used in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products).  The study claimed that when subjects drank the sucralose sweetened beverage they had a higher than normal glucose level afterwards. The results, however, show that the subjects’ glucose levels were all within the normal range for this glucose test. So, it seems the results of this small study are much ado about nothing.

But let’s consider these results in the context of other studies done over the years to determine if there’s an effect of sucralose on blood glucose levels, insulin levels or A1c (the measure of long term glucose control) in people with and without diabetes. I’ll let you know upfront, no rise in glucose, insulin or A1c has ever been found.

For starters, a large study looked at the effect of a large amount of sucralose on short term glucose control in people with type 1 or 2 diabetes and showed no effects. A longer study in people with type 2 diabetes showed that consuming way more sucralose than most people would ever consume each day had no effect on glucose, insulin or A1c. Studies have also been done with sucralose in people who didn’t have diabetes and showed no effect on blood glucose control.

What’s also important to know is that the FDA, with the studies mentioned above, way back in the late 1990’s, approved the use of sucralose as a food additive in nearly any type of food or beverage, and as a sugar substitute in packet or granular form, like SPLENDA® Sweeteners. Beyond the U.S., the safety of sucralose has been reviewed and approved by most of the FDA-like regulatory agencies around the world. 

Support from the American Diabetes Association

The American Diabetes Association, in their nutrition recommendations notes that, “Before being allowed on the market, all [low calorie sweeteners] underwent rigorous scrutiny and were shown to be safe when consumed by the public, including people with diabetes and women during pregnancy.”

The American Diabetes Association website offers this advice: “As part of a weight loss or weight management plan, low-calories sweeteners can provide lighter options for desserts and other treats instead of cutting them out completely. By replacing sugar-sweetened drinks and foods in your diet with versions that have been sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners, you may significantly reduce your calorie intake if you do not compensate with extra servings of something else. These sweeteners also do not have any grams of carbohydrate and do not increase blood glucose levels. So if you have diabetes and a sweet tooth, using sugar substitutes in drinks and foods may be a good way to enjoy a sweet treat without raising blood glucose quite as much!” You can read the full statement here: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/artificial-sweeteners/cutting-calories-and-carbohydrate.html.

However, the American Diabetes Association and I caution you that low calorie sweeteners are no “magic bullet” for losing weight or keeping it off. Calories still count!

We suggest you use low calorie sweeteners to help you eat fewer calories. Don’t think that just because you drink a diet soda, it’s fine to overeat at your next meal. Do think about using low calorie sweetened foods and beverages in place of those which contain regular sweeteners, like sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Diet soda is a great example. Quite a calorie savings!

Also, consider making sweet-tooth satisfying beverages or desserts with SPLENDA® Sweeteners. Check out this advice about living with diabetes and following a healthy eating plan: http://www.splenda.com/living-with-diabetes/balanced-diet.

Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM, is a nationally recognized dietitian and diabetes educator who applies nearly 35 years of expertise as an author, freelance writer, media spokesperson, consultant and diabetes educator. Hope recognizes that healthy eating today can be one tough job and believes that simple tweaks in your food choices and how you prepare foods can often set you on a path to healthier eating.

For more information, visit:

Diabetes Care
Journal of The American Dietetic Association
Food and Chemical Toxicology
Federal Register
Diabetes.org

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