Does artificial sweetener raise your blood sugar?
For years, the traditional train of thought was that artificial sweeteners were good alternatives for those who need to monitor blood glucose levels. Most artificial sweeteners are considered “free foods” because they don’t count as calories or carbohydrates on a diabetes exchange. Sugar substitutes can include the following:
Saccharin (Sweet N Low)
Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)
Acesulfame Potassium (Sunett)
Stevia (Pure Via, Truvia)
These artificial sweeteners are appealing because they offer the sweetness of sugar without the calories. However, more recently studies have found that food containing artificial sweeteners may in fact affect your blood sugar levels.
Recently, my husband decided to experiment on himself to see how different foods affect his blood sugar. To do so, he purchased a Continuous Glucose monitor or CGM. Continuous Glucose Monitoring is a method to track glucose levels throughout the day and night. A device takes glucose measurements at regular intervals throughout the day/night and then transmits the readings into data that can be tracked and monitored. Having this information allows users to be proactive about managing their glucose levels and gives them insight on what types of foods have the most impact.
How Does CGM work?
The monitor has a tiny sensor wire that is inserted into the skin via an automatic applicator and held into place for 14 days by an adhesive patch. The sensor measures glucose levels within the interstitial fluid and sends the data to a smart device such as a cell phone. Typically, this type of device would be ideal for a diabetic or someone suffering from hypoglycemia. However, my husband did it purely from a biohacking standpoint.
Over the two-week period that my husband wore his CGM, he noticed that not only did traditional sugar spike his glucose readings but so did artificial sugar, particularly Zevia sodas in his case. Zevia sodas are marketed as naturally sweetened beverages. In fact, they claim to have zero calories, zero sugar, and zero artificial sweeteners. They are sweetened with a plant-based sweetener called stevia, which is thought to help control blood sugar and insulin levels. In my husband’s case, it did the opposite. Each time he drank a Zevia soda, he would notice a significant spike in his CGM data, more so than if he drank a glass of wine. After seeing these results, we decided to look to the current research on artificial sweeteners.
Scientists Segal and Elinav, both faculty of the Weizmann Institute of Science have been studying the effects of artificial sweeteners on mice. After adding artificial sweeteners to the drinking water of mice, they found that their blood sugar levels were higher than those of mice who drank regular sugar water. The scientists went on to study the gut microbiome of 400 people who drank artificial sugar regularly. Not only were their gut microbiomes different, but they also had higher fasting blood sugar levels and impaired blood sugar tolerance. These findings suggest that artificial sweeteners may not be an effective way to manage blood sugar and insulin levels in people with diabetes or hypoglycemia after all.
So next time, you go to grab your favorite diet soda or stevia treat, think twice about what is really going on inside your body due to these artificial sweeteners. It may be worth it to indulge in the regular sugar or a piece of fruit instead.
Rubin, R (2014, September 17). Could Artificial Sweeteners Raise your Blood Sugar?
Retrieved from WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20140917/artificial-sweeteners-blood-sugar#1
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