Dangers of Aspartame for Diabetics

Having diabetes means watching what you eat and drink in order to keep your blood sugar levels in check. In addition, part of managing diabetes involves maintaining a healthy weight. To achieve both, you may look for products that are low in calories, sugar and carbohydrates, which sometimes means consuming products made with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. If you are concerned about consuming aspartame, check with your doctor to see if it can be included in your diet plan.

Aspartame tablets in a pile.
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Aspartame Controversy

To cut back on sugar and calorie content, some foods and beverages are made with manufactured products called artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than table sugar and can add taste without all of the calories that table sugar has. One popular artificial sweetener is aspartame, which is a combination of two amino acids -- aspartic acid and phenylalanine -- and it is found under the names of Equal and Nutrasweet. While there has been much controversy over its use, there have been no clinical trials that prove that it is unsafe or that it contributes to cancer, headaches or any other type of disease, says FamilyDoctor.org. Since aspartame contains phenylalanine, you should not consume it if you have phenylketonuria, or PKU.

Diabetes and Aspartame

There have been claims or suggestions that diabetics can experience adverse health effects from consuming aspartame. However, there are no scientific studies to back up these claims. It appears that consuming aspartame poses no specific threat to those with diabetes, and products made with aspartame can help diabetics to satisfy a sweet tooth without ingesting too many calories or carbs, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center.

Blood Sugar Levels

Carbohydrates are the main type of food that can cause spikes and drops in blood sugar levels so diabetics need to limit their intake. Since artificial sweeteners do not contain carbohydrates, they have no affect on blood sugar levels. However, caution should be used because products that contain aspartame may have other ingredients that do add calories or carbohydrates, so the American Diabetes Association recommends reading nutrition labels carefully.

Free Foods

Since artificial sweeteners such as aspartame do not contain calories, fat or carbohydrates, they are listed as free foods on the exchange list system for diabetic meal planning, reports the University of Arkansas. Many foods and beverages that contain aspartame, such as soda, ice cream, candy and others, are not considered healthy foods, so they should be eaten in moderation. Foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners while safe, should only be consumed as an occasional treat.

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