A while back a reader wrote and asked, “I have to eat a diabetic diet and stay away from sugar. Are artificial sweeteners okay to eat?”
My answer is that the scoop on artificial sweeteners is negative. My mother was a brittle diabetic with wide swings in her blood sugar, and I remember watching her sprinkle artificial sweeteners on her cereal. She enjoyed using these substances in her diabetic diet, even though I didn’t think it was a good idea.
My mother also had a chronic tremor. Her doctor attributed it to the diabetes, but I always wondered if the artificial sweeteners she constantly used in her diabetic diet were over stimulating her nervous system. Research has since shown that artificial sweeteners can cause excitability in the nervous system.
Additionally, the sweet taste of artificial sweeteners on your tongue triggers the release of insulin in the body to offset the expected sugar. However, since there isn’t actually any sugar in what’s consumed, the insulin goes to work on whatever little sugar is actually in the body—resulting in hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia, in turn, makes a person feel hungry—so he or she ends up eating more and may actually gain weight. It all becomes a vicious cycle and definitely one that's counterproductive to a diabetic diet.
If you must sweeten your food, my recommendation is to use the nutritional supplement stevia which is available in health food stores, or a small amount of honey or maple syrup.
Now it’s your turn: Have you found that artificial sweeteners increase your appetite?
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