Living With

The Trouble with Non-Caloric Sweeteners

David Mendosa Health Guide November 22, 2007
  • Non-caloric sweeteners like stevia and Splenda and others might be better for those of us with type 2 diabetes than old-fashioned table sugar and the more recent high-fructose corn syrup. We don’t need the extra calories that these sugars provide or their impact on our livers or the blood glucose spikes that they give us.

    But even those sweeteners that don’t provide any calories aren’t a free lunch for our digestive system. Some research show that they can raise our levels of circulating insulin, which makes us hungry so we will probably eat more.

    The new book, Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes demonstrates that increased insulin levels send more signals to fat tissue to pull fatty acids from the blood stream and store them. When fatty acid levels in the blood stream go down, we feel hungry.


    The classic 1969 experiment by Stylianos Nicolaïdis showed that merely tasting a sweet substance – whether it is sugar or a non-caloric sweetener – causes rats to secrete insulin.

    Most of the humans I know aren't rats. Our bodies could react differently.

     

    Certainly, those of us who have type 1 diabetes will react differently because when beta cells are lacking they can't stimulate insulin secretion. This may help to explain why type 1's usually have a normal body mass index.

     

    So, what is the best sweetener that Gary Taubes would recommend for people with diabetes? A woman in Verdun, Quebec, who calls herself Verdungal, asked him that question here. He hasn’t answered yet.

    But on the basis of the evidence that Taubes presents, it seems clear to me that the best sweetener is none at all. While it might seem that going cold turkey on sweeteners might be as difficult as with nicotine, that wasn't my experience. And now I am able to enjoy a lot more different tastes that good food has.