Popular Artificial Sweeteners and Their Effect on Blood Sugar
artificial sweeteners and blood sugar levels

Artificial Sweeteners: Different Types & Their Effect On Blood Sugar Levels

Are these sugar substitutes a safe alternative for those watching their glucose, or do they come with hidden risks? Know the science and learn how different sweeteners affect your body.

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In a world increasingly conscious of health and wellness, artificial sweeteners have become a popular alternative to sugar. Promising the sweet taste without the added calories, these substitutes are a common choice for those looking to manage their weight or control their blood sugar levels. But have you ever stopped for a moment and thought whether are these substitutes truly safe and how do they impact our blood sugars?

By knowing about the popular types of artificial sweeteners and their potential effect on glucose levels, you can be well aware and make an informed decision while choosing one. In this blog, we cover information on the types of artificial sweeteners, their impact on blood sugar levels, potential side effects and other information.

Artificial sweeteners, often known as sugar substitutes, are added to food goods to provide the same sweetness as sugar without the calories. They lend sweetness which is similar to table sugar. These are quite sweet on their own hence they require only a small amount to add the required sweetness which contributes to virtually less calorie intake.

Artificial sweeteners are widely used in various items, including soft drinks, baked goods, and confectionery.

Popular Types of Artificial Sweeteners

Several artificial sweeteners are commonly used, each with its unique properties and effects on the body:

types of artificial sweeteners

1. Aspartame

One of the most popular sweetener is Aspartame. This non-nutritive sweetener is around 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is sold under brand names – Equal, NutraSweet, and Sugar free. Since it is 200 times sweeter than sugar, only a small amount is required to sweeten foods and beverages.

  • Usage: Widely used in diet sodas, sugar-free gum, and various low-calorie foods.

2. Sucralose

Another popular artificial sweetener is Sucralose – a zero calorie artificial sweetener. Commonly found under the brand name Splenda, this sweetener is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Sucralose is heat-stable, making it ideal for cooking and baking.

  • Usage: Common in baked goods, beverages, and as a tabletop sweetener.

3. Saccharin

Saccharin has been used for over a century and is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners. This is a common substitute for sugar and is around 300–400 times sweeter than regular sugar. Humans lack the tendency to break down saccharin hence it leaves your body unchanged. The aftertaste of this artificial sweetener might be slightly bitter hence it is used in combination with other low calorie sweeteners.

  • Usage: Often found in soft drinks, canned fruits, and as a tabletop sweetener

4. Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K):

Acesulfame Potassium is also known as Ace-K is 200 times sweeter than table sugar. Typically a white crystal like powder, this calorie free sweetener has a slightly bitter aftertaste. Hence, it is often blended with other sweeteners to enhance flavor and reduce aftertaste.

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  • Usage: Commonly found in protein shakes, drink mixes, candies, gums and baked goods.

5. Neotame

This sweetener is sold under the brand name Newtame and is about 7000 to 13000 times sweeter than sugar. Neotame is heat stable in other words it stays sweet even when used at high temperatures. This characteristic makes it a suitable sugar substitute in baked goods.

  • Usage: Used in a variety of processed foods and beverages.

Impact of Artificial Sweeteners on Blood Glucose 

impact on blood sugar

Artificial sweeteners are frequently used by people who want to control their blood sugar levels, especially those who have diabetes. Here’s how various sweeteners affect blood sugar levels and the wider consequences of their use:

Immediate Effects on Blood Sugar Levels

1. Non-Glycemic Response

  • Most artificial sweeteners do not cause a direct rise in blood glucose levels because they are not carbohydrates. Unlike sugar, which is metabolized by the body and raises blood glucose, artificial sweeteners are either not metabolized or only partially metabolized, resulting in a negligible impact on blood sugar.
  • Examples of non-glycemic artificial sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose, stevia, and saccharin.

2. Insulin Response

  • Some studies suggests that certain artificial sweeteners may cause a cephalic phase insulin response, in which the body releases insulin based only on the sensation of sweetness. However, this response is typically small and insufficient to cause significant changes in blood sugar levels.

Long-Term Effects 

1. Impact on Insulin Sensitivity

  • There is ongoing debate about whether long-term consumption of artificial sweeteners might affect insulin sensitivity. Some animal studies and a few human studies suggest that artificial sweeteners could potentially alter insulin sensitivity, though the evidence is not conclusive.
  • Changes in insulin sensitivity can affect how effectively the body regulates blood sugar, potentially impacting long-term glucose control.

2. Alteration of Gut Microbiota

  • According to recent studies, artificial sweeteners may alter the composition of the gut bacteria, which regulates glucose metabolism. Changes in gut bacteria have the potential to alter blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity.
  • Sucralose and saccharin, for example, have been demonstrated in studies to influence gut flora, possibly contributing to glucose intolerance in some people.

3. Behavioral and Dietary Impacts

Artificial sweeteners can affect dietary habits and behaviors. Some studies suggest that the use of artificial sweeteners might lead to increased cravings for sweet foods, potentially causing overconsumption of calories and affecting blood sugar control indirectly.

The psychological effect of consuming sweet-tasting but calorie-free substances might lead individuals to justify eating more, potentially leading to poor dietary choices.

Considerations for Diabetics

1. Glycemic Control

  • For individuals with diabetes, artificial sweeteners can be a useful tool to help manage blood sugar levels by reducing overall sugar intake without sacrificing sweetness. This can help maintain better glycemic control when used appropriately.
  • Substituting sugar with artificial sweeteners in foods and beverages can help diabetics avoid spikes in blood glucose levels.

2. Monitoring and Individual Variability

  • It is essential for diabetics to monitor their blood sugar levels regularly when incorporating artificial sweeteners into their diet. The responses and impact might vary depending upon individual responses. What works for one person may not work for another.
  • Hence, it is advisable to consult with healthcare providers and possibly conduct personal trials. This can help determine the most suitable artificial sweeteners for managing blood glucose effectively.

Sugar vs Artificial Sweeteners

sugar vs artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners differ significantly from sugar in terms of caloric content. Here’s a detailed comparison highlighting these differences:

1. Sugar

  • Calories: Regular sugar (sucrose) contains about 4 calories per gram.
  • Sweetness: Sugar provides a moderate level of sweetness, which means you need a relatively larger amount to achieve the desired sweet taste in foods and beverages.
  • Usage: Because of its caloric content, high consumption of sugar can contribute to weight gain and related health issues such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dental cavities.

2. Artificial Sweeteners

  • Calories: Most artificial sweeteners are non-nutritive, meaning they contain little to no calories. Even those that do have calories (like aspartame) are used in such small quantities that their caloric contribution is negligible.
  • Sweetness: Artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar. For instance:
    • Aspartame: About 200 times sweeter than sugar.
    • Sucralose: About 600 times sweeter than sugar.
    • Saccharin: About 300-400 times sweeter than sugar.
    • Stevia: About 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.
    • Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K): About 200 times sweeter than sugar.
    • Neotame: About 7,000-13,000 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Usage: Due to their high sweetness levels, only a tiny amount of artificial sweetener is needed to achieve the same level of sweetness as sugar. This drastically reduces the caloric content of foods and beverages sweetened with these substitutes.

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Regulatory and Safety Considerations

Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, and stevia have undergone extensive testing and regulatory scrutiny. They are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by food safety authorities, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) levels have been established for these sweeteners to ensure safe consumption.

What is ADI, you ask? The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is a measure of the amount of a substance (such as an artificial sweetener) that can be consumed daily over a lifetime without posing a significant risk to health. Here are the ADI values for some commonly used artificial sweeteners, as established by regulatory authorities like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA):

1. Aspartame

  • ADI: 50 mg per kg of body weight per day (FDA)
  • Example : For a person weighing 70 kg (154 lbs), the ADI would be 3,500 mg per day.

2. Sucralose

  • ADI: 5 mg per kg of body weight per day (FDA)
  • Example : For a person weighing 70 kg (154 lbs), the ADI would be 350 mg per day.

3. Saccharin

  • ADI: 5 mg per kg of body weight per day (FDA)
  • Example : For a person weighing 70 kg (154 lbs), the ADI would be 350 mg per day.

4. Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K)

  • ADI: 15 mg per kg of body weight per day (FDA)
  • Example : For a person weighing 70 kg (154 lbs), the ADI would be 1,050 mg per day.

5. Neotame

  • ADI: 0.3 mg per kg of body weight per day (FDA)
  • Example: For a person weighing 70 kg (154 lbs), the ADI would be 21 mg per day.

 Notes on Consumption

  • Moderation is Key: While the ADI levels imply safe consumption limits, it is critical to use artificial sweeteners in moderation, given their prevalence in numerous foods and drinks.
  • Cumulative Intake: Be mindful that ingesting many products containing various artificial sweeteners might pile up, potentially approaching the ADI for each one.
  • Individual Sensitivity: Some people may have side effects at lower amounts than the ADI, therefore personal tolerance and health conditions should be considered.

Ongoing research investigates the long-term impact of artificial sweeteners on blood sugar management and overall health. It is critical to keep up with new findings and change dietary patterns accordingly.

Conclusion

The main takeaway from this article is that it is critical to incorporate artificial sweeteners into your diet in a balanced manner while also being careful of how your body responds. What works for one person may not work for another, so listen to your body and make decisions that are consistent with your health objectives and preferences. While regulatory agencies have determined they are safe to consume, recent research suggests they may have long-term effects on gut health and insulin sensitivity.

Are you aware about these artificial sweeteners?

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