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Ask Tufts Experts August 2013 Issue

Q. My physician tells me that I am pre-diabetic, so I am very careful about my sugar and carbohydrate intake. Do artificial sweeteners raise bloodsugar levels?

A. Ashley Abbott, a dietetic intern at Tufts’ Frances Stern Nutrition Center, replies: “Artificial sweeteners are low-calorie sweeteners that will not raise your blood sugar. Artificial sweeteners are considered ‘free foods’ because they contain kless than 20 calories and less than 5 grams of carbohydrate on a diabetes exchange. They can be used in place of sugar to provide a lower-calorie, lower-carbohydrate food or beverage. “Artificial sweeteners may be useful in blood sugar and weight control because they are much sweeter than regular sugar, so less is needed when they are used as sugar substitutes. In addition, they cannot be broken down by the body (with the exception of aspartame), so they pass through your system without providing any extra calories. “There are five FDA-approved artificial sweeteners: acesulfame K (Sunnet), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), sucralose (Splenda), and neotame. These sweeteners can be found in a wide variety of foods and beverages including diet drinks, chewing gum, light yogurts, baked goods and processed snack foods. They can also be bought in individual packets to be used in home recipes, or to sweeten coffee and tea. “Although artificial sweeteners alone will not raise your blood sugar, they may be in foods containing other ingredients that will, so remember to read the nutrition label when choosing foods! These sweeteners are often found in processed foods that provide far fewer nutritional benefits than whole foods. Focus on a diet rich in whole foods, and remember that moderation is keywhen consuming artificial  sweeteners.”

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