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Are sugar substitutes OK for people with diabetes?

You can potentially live the sweet life as a person with diabetes, PWD. While too much sugar can be a concern for PWDs, artificial sweeteners can offer the chance to enjoy your favorite treats in a safer manner. While food science has provided PWDs with a possible way to savor their sweetened delights, a universal truth of nutrition still applies to artificial sugar substitutes: Everything in moderation. 

Are artificial sweeteners safe for people with diabetes? 

Sugar substitutes, also known as low-calorie sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, or non-nutritive sweeteners, are low-calorie, low-carb compounds with fewer calories than natural sugar. Some refer to these sweeteners as “free foods,” suggesting they will have a negligible effect on carb and calorie intake. While this means that the average PWD can potentially sprinkle a pack or two into their morning coffee, they aren’t actually “free.” Artificial sweeteners can still affect your blood sugar levels in small ways, so they require the same level of observation and care that goes into any kind of meal planning for PWDs. A 2014 Harvard study [1] connected them to a dramatic change in gut bacteria [1] that altered glucose levels over time. 

However, the current consensus is that artificial sweeteners do not alter blood sugar on their own without overconsumption. 

The FDA approved several artificial sweeteners as being safe for their standards, including tagatose, aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. One naturally low-calorie sweetener, stevia, has also been approved. But experts warn that just because something is lower in calories doesn’t mean PWD can have unlimited amounts of it.  

In short, consuming artificial sweeteners is about as safe for PWDs as it is for those who do not live with diabetes. Although you may use them as a substitute for sugar in your diet, it is probably not wise to completely replace all sugar intake with artificial alternatives. 

However, remember that the only people truly qualified to make this decision are you and your healthcare providers. 

Types of Artificial Sweeteners 

Here are some of the most common types of artificial sweeteners and some helpful information to know about each:

Remember, no one can tell you what’s right for your body except your health care practitioner/provider. As with everything, moderation is key when it comes to sugar replacements!