Avoid Artificial Sweeteners to Prevent Diabetes
You may have heard about how to prevent diabetes—achieve a healthy weight and get regular physical activity. But what about artificial sweeteners—do they help prevent diabetes? New studies show that artificial sweeteners may actually put you at greater risk for developing diabetes.
Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose Intolerance
Researchers Jotham Suez, and colleagues recently demonstrated that commonly used artificial sweeteners drive glucose intolerance (abnormally blood glucose levels) in mice and humans. How? Increases in blood glucose developed because the artificial sweeteners changed the make-up of gut bacteria. Their research was recently published in the journal Nature.
Researchers also found that in humans, artificial sweetener use was associated with impaired glucose tolerance, and several other indicators of metabolic syndrome including weight, waist-to-hip ratio, and higher fasting blood glucose. Metabolic syndrome is an indicator of risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Researchers cautioned the use of these artificial sweeteners may have directly contributed to the obesity and diabetes epidemics.These researchers also called for a reassessment of widespread use of artificial sweeteners.
I now advise clients to discontinue use of artificial sweeteners because of their apparent ability to cause glucose intolerance, weight gain, and other indicators of metabolic syndrome. These sweeteners are saccharin (Sweet’n Low), sucralose (Splenda), and aspartame (Equal).
Natural Sweetener Options
What sweeteners are better than artificial sweeteners? Let’s rethink our sweet tooth as we look for alternatives.
1. Sweet Tooth on Steroids
Most of us are too heavy. The problem is that 69% of us are either overweight or obese. We eat too much and move too little. Sadly, our top source of calories in the U.S. is dessert (made from grains). These sweet treats contain sugar, fat, and calories, and little else.
Ready to tame your sweet tooth? The best way to wean yourself from the sugar habit is to substitute fruit as often as possible. If you must have a daily sugary treat, choose a favorite treat of 130 calories or less. Then have a special dessert occasionally, once or twice a month.
2. Regular Sweeteners
Consider using regular sweeteners sparingly. Example: If you have regular sugar in your coffee in the morning, limit or avoid drinking other sweetened beverages during the day.
3. Low calorie sweeteners from natural sources:
a. Stevia (Sweet Leaf, Truvia)
b. Other low calorie sweeteners (Whey Low, xylitol)
c. Monk fruit (feature)
Monk fruit is especially intriguing because of its long history of use as a natural sweetener. Monk fruit has been grown in southern China and Thailand for hundreds of years and used by Buddhist monks as a sweetener and for medicinal purposes.
This zero calorie sweetener is now commercially available in stores (Monk Fruit in the Raw). Monk fruit can be used to sweetener sauces, dressings, and beverages or can be used to replace half of the sugar in baked goods according to manufacturer instructions.
Derrick has lost 70 pounds since he began working with me. He has consistently used the tools that are part of my program. He has greatly improved his blood glucose values and as a result, his doctor has discontinued two of his medications. During this time he also has reduced the use of artificial sweeteners.
What ways have you found to tame your sweet tooth without using artificial sweeteners?
Yours in Joy and Health,
Kay Loughrey, LDN, RDN, MPH
Sweet Life Nutritionist and Behavioral Coach
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