Artificial sweeteners have gone a long way in
improving the life of diabetic patients - diabetics can now eat sweetened foods
sweeteners have also been aggressively marketed as a means to avoid sugar in
non-diabetics as well. Manufacturers claim that they reduce the total calorie intake and
play a role in maintaining fitness and reducing obesity. However, to achieve
this, artificial sweeteners should also be accompanied by reduced calorie
intake from other sources as well as exercise and other methods to increase
caloric expenditure. Non-caloric sweeteners do not have an ability to suppress
appetite and reduce motivation to eat more.
A variety of sweeteners are available in the market.
like acesulfame-K, aspartame, cyclamate, saccharin and sucralose
like hydrogenated starch hydrosylate, lycasin, maltitol and sorbitol. Sugar
alcohols provide fewer calories as compared to saccharides, but they cause some
digestive tract disturbances.
fructooligosaccharides, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey,
isomaltulose, maltose, sucromalt, sucrose, tagatose and trehalose.
Fructooligosaccharides give half the amount of calories per gram compared to
sucrose, fructose or glucose.
Which sweeteners could possibly help in controlling
blood glucose? Do sweeteners play any role in reducing obesity, as they are
claimed to be? Which sweeteners provide better health benefits? A review of published clinical trials evaluating
the use of sweeteners in healthy people, diabetics and obese or overweight
people was recently published.
A total of 53 studies were included in the review. Most of the studies were of a short
duration, with only 13 trials lasting for a week or more and the longest trial
lasting for 10 weeks. Unfortunately, trials carried out for such short
durations are unable to establish the benefits of using non-caloric sweeteners
in daily life.
Forty included trials studied the effect of
sweeteners on 2-hour blood glucose. Fructose
appeared to reduce 2-hour blood sugar as compared to glucose in diabetics.
Studies comparing the effect of hypocaloric sweeteners to sucrose or
high-fructose corn syrup were unable to reach any conclusions with regards to
2-hour blood glucose concentrations.
Twelve included studies were conducted on diabetic
people, five studied overweight or obese people and thirty-five were conducted
on healthy individuals.
indicated that non-caloric sweeteners reduced total energy intake compared to
sucrose by approximately 250- 500 kcal/day.
indicated that body mass index is reduced in people taking non-caloric
sweeteners compared to sucrose.
It is unclear whether any short-term benefits of
non-caloric sweeteners will have any long-term impact on obesity. In addition,
artificial sweeteners should be used with caution since some are associated
with adverse effects. For example, high
corn fructose syrup has been associated with hypertriglyceridemia (though
this was not found in any of the studies included in the review). Some
sweeteners have been associated with certain cancers in animal studies. Further and longer term studies are
required to establish the benefits of artificial sweeteners in conditions like
1. Natasha Wiebe et al. A systematic review on the effect of sweeteners
on glycemic response and clinically relevant outcomes. BMC Medicine 2011, 9:123