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Sweeteners and sugar substitutes

Recent studies have shown that simple sugars like table sugar (sucrose) do not raise your blood sugar higher or faster than other types of carbohydrates. According to the American Diabetes Association:

It is important, however, to follow how your own blood sugar responds to sugar-containing foods. Here are some important facts about sugar:

  • Sugar is a carbohydrate.
  • Foods that are high in sugar tend to be less nutritious.
  • Sugar is listed on a food label under the total carbohydrates.

Artificial sweeteners, also called low-calorie sweeteners, contain no sucrose (sugar). They are usually low in calories and most DO NOT affect your blood sugar level. The Food and Drug Administration has approved their use and the American Diabetes Association considers them to be safe. The effect of fructose (a form of sugar) in diabetes is unclear, and you may want to discuss with your nutritionist whether fructose is a good choice for you.

Here are some examples of artificial sweeteners:

  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • Acesulfame K (Sweet One)
  • Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal)
  • Saccharin (Sugar-Twin, Sweet n' Low, Sucaryl, Featherweight)
  • Sugar alcohols (sorbitol, lactitol, xylitol, erythriol, and others)
  • Neotame
  • Stevia based sugar substitutes: Truvia, PureVia, Stevia, Extract in the Raw, Rebiana (or rebaudioside A)

Other calorie-containing sweeteners are sugar alcohols, like sorbitol and mannitol. These may have a smaller effect on your blood sugar levels than table sugar. These are included on the nutrition label as carbohydrates. Count them as part of your total carbohydrate intake and remember that they contain calories.

"Dietetic or Sugar-Free" labels can be very deceptive. These foods are not calorie or carbohydrate-free and some have more calories than the non-dietetic variety. Often there are other carbohydrates in the ingredients, which may raise your blood sugar levels. Don't be fooled by sugar-free pies or cookies. Read nutrition labels carefully.

The bottom line is don't pay too much attention to the advertised message on the front of the food package. Checking nutrition labels for calories and carbohydrates gives you the information you need.


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Review Date: 7/8/2012
Reviewed By: Nancy J. Rennert, MD, Chief of Endocrinology & Diabetes, Norwalk Hospital, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Previoulsy reviewed by Ari S. Eckman, MD, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. (5/13/2010)
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