Artificial sweeteners are non-nutritive alternatives to sugar. These sweeteners are generally at least 30 times sweeter than sugar. Some examples of sweeteners in use in the United States include saccharin, acesulfame-K, sucralose, aspartame, refined stevia and neotame. These sweeteners provide an alternative to high-calorie sugars. As a diabetic, you might be tempted to choose an artificial sweetener. Consult with your doctor, as some artificial sweeteners may affect insulin.
Insulin is responsible for breaking down carbohydrates and fats, making them ready for transport throughout your body for energy. Insulin is a hormone your pancreas secretes when glucose enters your blood. Carbohydrates, including nutritive sugars, become glucose in your bloodstream. Table sugar, as well as other simple sugars such as fructose, is broken down quickly into glucose in the blood, resulting in a spike in blood sugar and a subsequent spike in insulin.
As of the time of publication, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers a number of artificial sweeteners "generally safe.” Aspartame, a sweetener approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose, received FDA approval after nearly two decades of testing. Sucralose, marketed under the name Splenda, is approximately 600 times sweeter than sucrose. Acesulfame-K is a sweetener similar in flavor to aspartame, approved by the FDA for limited use in chewing gum and soft drinks. The FDA also approves S. rebaudiana, a species of stevia shrub, for use as a sweetener; however, it has not approved whole leaf or unrefined stevia.
One of the earliest artificial sweeteners, aspartame, was shown early on to have a positive affect on insulin secretion, according to an article published in 1986 in the "Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice" journal. Your body does not recognize sucralose as a sugar because of the three chlorine atoms; instead, sucralose moves undigested through your digestive system without affecting insulin or blood sugar, according to a student paper on Vanderbilt University's Health Psychology site. Stevia does not cause a spike in insulin and may also improve glucose tolerance, a 1986 article in "Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research" reported. Stevia might also improve insulin resistance, according to an animal study published in "Planta Medica" in February 2005.
Artificial sweeteners are not all created equally. An article published in the journal "Hormone and Metabolic Research" in 1987 reported that the artificial sweetener acesulfame-K increases the release of insulin. Artificial sweeteners might cause side effects such as diarrhea and stomach upset. Do not use artificial sweeteners, such as some stevia extracts, sold in alcohol if you are a diabetic. Consult your doctor regarding which artificial sweetener is the best choice for you.
- "Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice"; Glucose Tolerance, Blood Lipid, Insulin and Glucagon Concentration After Single or Continuous Administration of Aspartame in Diabetics; Giichi Okuno, et al.; 1986
- Diabetes in Control; Maltose, Galactose, and Xylose May Yield Falsely Elevated Glucose Readings; November 2005
- "Hormone and Metabolic Research"; The Effect of Artificial Sweetener on Insulin Secretion II. Stimulation of Insulin Release from Isolated Rat Islets by Acesulfame K (In Vitro Experiments); Yin Liang, et al.; 1987
- "American Journal of Physiology: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology"; Effect of the Artificial Sweetener, Sucralose, on Gastric Emptying and Incretin Hormone Release in Healthy Subjects; Jing Ma, et al.; April 2009
- "Planta Medica"; Mechanism of the Hypoglycemic Effect of Stevioside, a Glycoside of Stevia Rebaudiana; Tso-Hsiao Chen, et al.; February 2005
- "Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research"; Effect of Stevia Rebaudiana on Glucose Tolerance in Normal Adult Humans; R. Curi, et al.; 1986