Certain sweeteners may help diabetes sufferers with glucose control, say US scientists

by Sarita Sheth on July 31, 2012

Using non-nutritive sweeteners could help reduce intake of added sugars

Substituting non-nutritive sweeteners for added sugars in drinks and other foods may help people with diabetes with their glucose control, it is claimed.

High intake of dietary sugars contributes to cardiovascular disease and obesity, which then can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes so maintaining a healthy body weight is important in helping to prevent diabetes.

A new scientific statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association says that using non–nutritive sweeteners has the potential to help people reach and maintain a healthy body weight.

But the statement said scientific evidence is limited and inconclusive about whether this strategy is effective in the long run for reducing calorie and added sugars consumption.

The American Heart Association recommends that most women eat no more than 100 calories per day and men no more than 150 calories per day of added sugars. This recommendation is based on research that showed diets high in added sugars increase risk factors, such as obesity and triglycerides, for coronary heart disease.

Additionally, foods and drinks high in added sugars tend to displace nutritious foods and are generally high in calories and low in nutritional value. Limiting intake of added sugars can help reduce calorie intake and can help people achieve or maintain a healthy body weight.

‘While they are not magic bullets, smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could help you reduce added sugars in your diet, therefore lowering the number of calories you eat. Reducing calories could help you attain and maintain a healthy body weight, and thereby lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes,’ said Christopher Gardner, associate professor of medicine at Stanford University in California.

But he said that there are caveats. Research, to date, is inconclusive as to whether using non-nutritive sweeteners as a substitute for caloric sweeteners, such as added sugars, can reduce carbohydrate intake, calorie intake or body weight, benefit appetite or lower other risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease in the long run.

‘Determining the potential benefits from non-nutritive sweeteners is complicated and depends on where foods or drinks containing them fit within the context of everything you eat during the day,’ Gardner said.

‘For example, if you choose a beverage sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners instead of a 150 calorie soft drink, but then reward yourself with a 300 calorie slice of cake or cookies later in the day, non-nutritive sweeteners are not going to help you control your weight because you added more calories to your day than you subtracted,’ he explained.

‘However, if you substitute the beverage with non-nutritive sweeteners for a 150 calorie sugar sweetened soft drink, and don’t compensate with additional calories, that substitution could help you manage your weight because you would be eating fewer calories,’ he added.

The researchers point out that beyond calories, and focusing more specifically on added sugars, non-nutritive sweeteners have their place for people with diabetes.

‘For example, soft drinks sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners do not increase blood glucose levels, and thus can provide a sweet option for those with diabetes,’ said Diane Reader, manager of professional training at the International Diabetes Center in Minneapolis and one of the statement authors on behalf of the American Diabetes Association.

She added that there still needs to be appropriate use of the non-nutritive sweeteners as just because a food product includes a non-nutritive sweetener, does not mean that it is a healthy food.

‘The use of non-nutritive sweeteners may be used in a carbohydrate controlled food plan, to potentially reduce carbohydrate intake which may aid in weight management and diabetes control,’ she added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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