TYPE 2 diabetes is caused by having too much sugar in the blood. This doesn’t mean people with diabetes have to completely cut sugar from their diet, but it should be limited in order to keep blood glucose levels under control. So are sweeteners a suitable alternative?
Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition resulting from there being too much sugar in the blood.
People with type 2 diabetes either can’t produce enough insulin, or the insulin they do produce can’t work effectively.
While diabetic people don’t have to completely ditch sugar from their diet, they should limit the amount they consume, in order to avoid complications.
One seemingly obvious alternative to sugar is sweeteners, although the pros and cons of sweeteners are frequently disputed and some are not recommended for people with diabetes at all.
Sweeteners can be categorised into two types: nutritive and non-nutritive. Nutritive sweeteners have nutritive value, while non-nutritive sweeteners don’t.
One group of nutritive sweeteners is polyols, which are sugar alcohols. They include sweeteners like erythritol, isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol.
Polyols contain carbohydrates and calories, but according to Diabetes UK have fewer calories and less of an effect on blood glucose levels than sugar.
“The amount of calories provided by polyols varies, as the amount of carbohydrate digested or absorbed by the body varies, depending on the type of polyol,” said Diabetes UK.
“People with diabetes should speak to their healthcare team for individual advice about this.”
Non-nutritive sweeteners are low in calories and carbohydrates, which could make them a suitable substitute for sugar.
Non-nutritive sweeteners, otherwise known as artificial sweeteners, include aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame potassium and cyclamate.
Diabetes UK recommends using these types of sweeteners in cooking, as they can still provide the sweetness you need, while reducing sugar and calorie intake.
They contain little or no calories or carbohydrates and don’t affect blood glucose levels.
“It’s a personal choice whether you decide to use sweeteners or not. If you decide to use sweeteners, but you’re unsure, speak to your diabetes healthcare team for individual advice, and check labels and ingredients on food packaging, as this can help you to make informed choices,” said Diabetes UK.