16 Jan Can Artificial Sweeteners Raise Blood Sugar Levels?
Artificial sweeteners are non-nutritive sweeteners that have risen in popularity because they are thought to be a “healthier” alternative to sugar.
These sweeteners are tossed into many zero or low-sugar products, including soda, baked goods, protein bars/shakes, and more.
Artificial sweeteners have become especially popular among those living with diabetes and others who try to manage their blood sugar levels. They are typically marketed as being a blood-sugar-friendly option to sweeten foods.
However, does the research actually back this up? Are artificial sweeteners a better choice for insulin levels?
In today’s article, I will be going over what artificial sweeteners are and how they can impact your blood sugar. I will also include my dietitian-approved recommendations for sweeteners that are backed by science to not affect insulin levels.
Looking for blood-sugar-friendly recipes? Head over to the recipe section on my website for some inspiration!
What are Artificial Sweeteners?
Have you ever used Truvia or Sweet n’ Low? Have you seen the packets on the table at restaurants, next to the sugar? These are artificial sweeteners!
Artificial sweeteners, sometimes called “sugar substitutes” they provide the sweetness of sugar with few-to-zero calories. They consist of chemical compounds that are made in a lab by combining different synthetic ingredients.
Many of these substitutes are can be up to 10-300x sweeter than actual sugar.
The most common artificial sweeteners are:
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- Acesulfame K (Sunett, Sweet One)
- Saccharin (Sweet N’ Low)
While in theory, artificial sweeteners sound great, research has begun to show that they might not be helping your body in the way you think. They actually could be doing more harm than good!
How Can Artificial Sweeteners Impact Blood Sugar?
While artificial sweeteners are often recommended for diabetes or weight loss, it is important to be aware of the potential risk factors of taking them.
These sweeteners do not contain glucose, so many people assume they have no effect on blood sugar levels. However, this isn’t always the case.
When you eat these compounds, they do not raise your blood sugar levels themselves, but they trigger mechanisms inside your body that reduce your ability to manage blood sugar levels.
One recent study found that people who ate artificial sweeteners had a higher level of insulin resistance (IR) than those who did not. Insulin is the hormone your body produces to manage blood sugar spikes.
Insulin resistance is when your body becomes more resistant to insulin, meaning you need more of it to work. Higher levels of IR can be problematic, especially for people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Another study reviewed in this article concluded participants who ate saccharin and sucralose had significant spikes in blood sugar levels after glucose-tolerance tests.
As you can see, more research is emerging that artificial sweeteners are actually not the best sugar substitute to use because they can still impact blood glucose levels.
Effects on Our Microbiome
Some non-nutritive sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, have been shown to also negatively affect our gut microbiome. This can be a huge problem because we know how important a healthy gut is for our overall health and longevity!
Your gut microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that reside in your gut and work together in harmony to carry out tasks and functions. Recent articles have concluded that certain artificial sweeteners pass through your GI tract undigested and can impact the composition of microbes in your gut.
So, what sweeteners should you use that are blood-sugar friendly? Keep reading to learn!
Blood-Sugar Friendly Sweeteners: Dietitian-Approved!
Now that you know which sweeteners may not be the most beneficial, let’s talk about some sugar substitutes that are better for your health!
According to the research, whole-leaf stevia and monk fruit are two sweeteners that do not impact blood sugar levels.
Whole-leaf stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. It is 250-300 times sweeter than natural sugar, so a little bit goes a long way.
Monkfruit sweeteners are natural, zero-calorie sweeteners that are becoming more popular. Monkfruit, also known as lo han guo, is a small round fruit that comes from Southern China.
If you want to choose an alternative to sugar, I highly encourage you to check out whole stevia leaf or monk fruit sweeteners. They are great options that can be used in baking, oatmeal, coffee, and other desserts, without having to worry about it impacting your levels.
Artificial Sweeteners and Blood Sugar: The Takeaway
With all the hype and controversy around artificial sweeteners, I know it can be frustrating to know what to do. You may be searching the web for answers and coming up with conflicting views!
Just know that you aren’t alone. This is why I created my Master Blood Sugar Balance Program! To support people like you on how to manage and balance blood sugar levels. It includes easy and tangible tips that fit into your daily life.
If this sounds like something you are interested in, I invite you to learn more about my program here. I’d love to hear from you!