If you’re struggling to keep blood sugar in check, or reduce the risk for diabetes, zero-calorie sweeteners may seem like a great idea.
But things aren’t always what they seem.
These sweeteners contain very few or no calories, but have a much higher sweetness intensity than common calorie-containing sweeteners like sugar or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
They are used in several products like desserts, yogurt, candies, baked goods, cereals, puddings, and “diet” drinks like soda and iced tea.
But even though these products don’t contain calories or sugar, they don’t necessarily reduce the risk for chronic health conditions. In fact, there is data to show they may actually boost the risk for diabetes and heart disease.
One large study showed that both sugar-sweetened beverages and zero-calorie sweeteners were associated with an increased risk for type diabetes. One theory is that zero-calorie sweeteners may stimulate appetite and preference for sweets.
Other work shows LCS may lead to weight gain or at least have no effect on weight loss. However, other studies suggest it could play a role in weight loss. Weight and blood sugar levels are closely related.
The human brain responds to sweetness with signals to eat more. So by consuming ultra-sweet products with zero-calorie sweeteners, cravings for sweetness may intensify, leading to increased consumption of extra calories.
It is possible, however, that zero-calorie sweeteners could be a useful tool to satisfy an occasional craving for sweetness, but it’s likely not a good thing to make them a staple in your diet.
Getting a handle on blood sugar is best accomplished by increasing activity and eating a diet that is low in processed food (foods with zero-calorie sweeteners) and sugar and high in whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and lean protein.
Adopting a healthy diet will take some time – your tastebuds will adjust. You just have to be patient. Cravings should eventually subside, and you’ll be on your way towards lower blood sugar and lower risk for type-2 diabetes,