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Diabetes Health Center

Artificial Sweeteners and Diabetes

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Is it possible to eat sweets when you have diabetes? The answer is "yes." But when you’re trying to satisfy your sweet tooth, it can be hard to know what to reach for at the grocery store (sugar-free this or low-calorie that). So, use this primer to help you choose wisely.

The Sweet Facts

When you’re comparing sweeteners, keep these things in mind:

  • Sugars are naturally occurring carbohydrates. These include brown sugar, cane sugar, confectioners’ sugar, fructose, honey, and molasses. They have calories and raise your blood glucose levels (the level of sugar in your blood).
  • Reduced-calorie sweeteners are sugar alcohols. You might know these by names like isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. You'll often find them in sugar-free candy and gum. They have about half the calories of sugars and can raise your blood sugar levels, although not as much as other carbohydrates.
  • Artificial sweeteners are considered "free foods." They were designed in a lab, have no calories, and do not raise your blood sugar levels.

 

Types of Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial low-calorie sweeteners include:

  • Saccharin (Sweet'N Low, Sugar Twin). You can use it in both hot and cold foods. Avoid this sweetener if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal). You can use it in both cold and warm foods. It may lose some sweetness at high temperatures. People who have a condition called phenylketonuria should avoid this sweetener.
  • Acesulfame potassium or ace-K (Sweet One, Swiss Sweet, Sunett). You can use it in both cold and hot foods, including in baking and cooking.
  • Sucralose (Splenda). You can use it in hot and cold foods, including in baking and cooking. Processed foods often contain it.
  • Advantame can be used in baked goods, soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages, chewing gum, candies, frostings, frozen desserts, gelatins and puddings, jams and jellies, processed fruits and fruit juices, toppings and syrups. 
  • Neotame (Newtame)

 

Read Between the Lines

Use this "cheat sheet" to identify which products are sweetened the way you want them.

  • No sugar or sugar-free. The product does not contain sugar at all, though it may contain sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners.
  • No added sugar. During processing, no extra sugar was added. However, the original source might have contained sugar, such as fructose in fruit juice. Additional sweeteners such as sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners also might have been added.
  • Dietetic. The product may have reduced calories, but this word can mean a lot of things.

 

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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Normal
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Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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