Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sugar Free Diet? Sucralose (aka, Splenda®) may still impact your Blood-Sugar and Insulin Levels

Sucralose (aka, Splenda®) / sugar-substitutes may alter blood-sugar response

Sugar-Free Diets using artificial-sweeteners may still impact blood glucose and insulin levels

I was just reading about a new small study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis where study results showed that a popular artificial sweetener (Sucralose, or Splenda® by its common brand name) can modify how the body handles sugar. This is certainly worth further research, as many of us using sugar-alternative for calorie-reduction or an otherwise sugar-free-diet may be making assumptions about the products, and their potential impact on our blood-glucose and/or insulin levels, that may turn out to not be 100% correct.

I think the first thing to mention of note about this study was the size of the study: it was a VERY small study group and involved only 17 persons, and the participants were severely obese.  But, the evidence obtained from it sure looks to alter the conventional wisdom that this sugar-substitute (sucralose) is completely incapable of affecting our blood-sugar and/or insulin levels or response curves.  As quoted from the article I read:
"When study participants drank sucralose, their blood sugar peaked at a higher level than when they drank only water before consuming glucose," [...]. "Insulin levels also rose about 20 percent higher. So the artificial sweetener was related to an enhanced blood insulin and glucose response."
That is indeed of interest.  Like the authors later noted, such response makes one consider the progressive nature of Type-2 diabetes and how when we routinely secrete more insulin, we can become resistant to its effects, thus leading us down the path to type 2 diabetes.  That is a bit scary.  But, I still have to believe products like sucralose are going to slow that march toward Type-2 as compared to ingesting the usual sugars: glucose, sucrose, fructose, etc.

I have used Splenda® in various baked products over the years, and more recently I tend to use stevia-based sweeteners.  And, when it comes to stevia, I personally use a LOT of it in my daily life (generally pure powdered stevia and/or PureVia® brand sweeter), from my morning home-made low-sugar greek-yogurt creations to my no-added-sugar smoothies to many other things.  All of these products are certainly wonderful options for people that want to reduce sugar (and/or carbohydrates in general) in their baked goods or other sweetened foods -- gluten-free or otherwise.  I have some gluten-free recipes where I rely almost entirely on such artificial sweeteners (including my own "low-carb cheesecakes" that I still need to post the recipes for on my library), and I have to believe recipes using these sugar-replacers are still much better at attenuating blood-sugar response when consuming the resulting foods (as compared to if I had used conventional high-sugar sweeteners like white sugar, brown sugar, and so forth).

I would personally like to see larger-scale studies done on sucralose as well as other favored sugar-substitutes like: stevia / Reb-a / rebaudiana, Eryithritol (pretty common in conjunction with stevia - e.g., Truvía® brand sweeter uses this combo), and Xylitol too.  I have done my own research over the years, by way of reading available published scholarly material on stevia and eryithritol, and I currently feel they are most likely going to have little if any affect on blood sugar, but I sure wouldn't mind wide-scale studies that confirm this.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available


Anonymous said...

What you don't mention is that sugar substitutes still contain carbs. Next time you are looking for ice cream look at the total carbs per serving of sugar free vanilla and regular ice cream. What you will find is that they are almost exactly the same. As a type 1 diabetic I must not be as concerned about the amount of sugar I eat, but the total amount of carbohydrates I eat and dose my insulin accordingly.
This is why I avoid almost all already made GF products and also any packaged mixes as vendors load up on sugar to make you think it is better tasting.

Mike Eberhart said...

I didn't mention that sugar-substitutes MAY contain carbs, mainly for the simple fact that my blog entry wasn't about that particularly. But yes, you have a good point, as SOME sugar-substitutes do have carbs that your body must handle.

This was a bit beyond the scope of my article, as I'd have to dive into all sorts of science about things like how the body handles various types of sugar-alcohols (Xylitol, Sorbitol, Eryithritol, etc). Those are the main sugar-substitutes that may exist in a product in high enough concentrations to impact blood sugar. I doubt you'd see a stevia-sweetened ice cream (pure stevia that is; not one with Erythritol in it).

Also, if we are just talking Splenda (brand) sweetener, it may contain dextrose and maltodextrin (in addition to sucralose), which is where those carbs are coming from. Sucralose (itself) is completely non-caloric and should have no impact on blood-sugar (though, this article discusses the study of that in obese people and how this may not be 100% the case in everyone. But, the dextrose/maltodextrin in Splenda (brand of sucralose-based sweetener) can add up in bulk use, since those two components *are* carbohydrates in and of themselves.

So, I am not sure what ice-cream you are looking at, but yes I fully understand the sugar-free variety can have just as many carbs. Like you said, the buyer needs to be aware and read labels. When creating ANY food, you have 3 main categories of ingredients: fats, proteins, and carbs. So, if the maker of a "sugar-free" ice cream simply replaces sugar(s) with other carbs, then the balance is still similar. One could argue the bioavailability of *types* of carbs (like, fiber that is not absorbed, or that Eryithritol is less impacting blood-sugar than sorbitol), but generally, carbs need to be scrutinized.

I agree with you there too: I avoid nearly all pre-made GF stuff and bake my own (never mind my published book is "normal" sugar-containing version)... I have also managed to create some very carb-reduced sugar-free (no added sugar) desserts using Stevia, mainly by adapting the recipes in my book. Hope to add them to my online library soon.

Thanks for the feedback.