Can I use artificial sweeteners if I have diabetes?
Answers from M. Regina Castro, M.D.
You can use most sugar substitutes if you have diabetes, including:
- Saccharin (Sweet'N Low)
- Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)
- Acesulfame potassium (Sunett)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- Stevia (Pure Via, Truvia)
Artificial sweeteners, or sugar substitutes, offer the sweetness of sugar without the calories. Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than sugar, so it takes a smaller amount to sweeten foods. This is why foods made with artificial sweeteners may have fewer calories than those made with sugar.
Sugar substitutes don't affect your blood sugar level. In fact, most artificial sweeteners are considered "free foods" — foods containing less than 20 calories and 5 grams or less of carbohydrates — because they don't count as calories or carbohydrates on a diabetes exchange. Remember, however, other ingredients in foods containing artificial sweeteners can still affect your blood sugar level.
Also, be cautious with sugar alcohols — including mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. Sugar alcohols can increase your blood sugar level. And for some people, sugar alcohols may cause diarrhea.
M. Regina Castro, M.D.
Mar. 19, 2013
- Ludwig DS. Artificially sweetened beverages: Cause for concern. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2009;302:2477.
- Artificial Sweeteners. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/artificial-sweeteners/. Accessed Jan. 17, 2013.
- Sugar and desserts. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/sweeteners-and-desserts.html. Accessed Jan. 14, 2013.
- Sugar alcohols. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/sugar-alcohols.html. Accessed Jan. 17, 2013.
- Nonnutritive sweeteners: Current use and health perspectives. A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2012/07/09/CIR.0b013e31825c42ee.citation. Accessed Jan. 17, 2013.
- Fitch C, et al. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012;112:739.