7 different sugar substitutes used in diabetic products
If you’ve picked up a snack that’s suitable for diabetics, chances are you’ll notice that it doesn’t contain any sugar. With diabetes, your body isn’t able to break down glucose due to the absence of the insulin hormone. Since glucose is a component of sugar, diabetic products would avoid using it as the body isn’t able to convert it into energy.
Instead of sugar, these diabetic products use sugar substitutes instead. While it was previously given a bad reputation, recent research has shown that there’s no credible evidence to back this up, especially if these substitutes are consumed moderately. While these sugar substitutes have very little nutritional value, they’re suitable for individuals with diabetes. With so many available on the market, it can be a little baffling. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the different sugar substitutes.
Sugar Substitute Categories
There are generally two types of categories when it comes to these sugar substitutes. The first category is non-nutritive sweeteners, and the other is nutritive sweeteners.
Nutritive sweeteners usually contain calories and provide carbohydrates. The group of nutritive sweeteners used in diabetic products however, not only have fewer calories but also have less of an effect on blood glucose levels in comparison to sugar.
These group of nutritive sweeteners typically used in diabetic products are called polyols and are also more commonly known as sugar alcohols. Examples of sugar alcohols include isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. These sugar alcohols can either be naturally or artificially produced.
Sugar Alcohols (Xylitol, Sorbitol)
Sugar alcohols are also known as polyols. They’re either extracted from the natural fibers of fruits and vegetables or processed from other sugars. Sugar alcohols fall under the classification of nutritive sweeteners.
• Sugar alcohols are a hybrid of sugar and alcohol molecules
• There is, however, no alcohol contained in the compound
• As sugar alcohols have a similar chemical structure to sugar, they activate the sweet receptors on your tongue
• The impact on blood sugar levels can vary for different sugar alcohols. It can range from a glycaemic index of 13 for xylitol, to 9 for sorbitol.
• Generally, sugar alcohols have a low impact on blood glucose levels
• They also contain fewer calories than regular sugar
• To be consumed in moderation, as overuse may cause a laxative effect
• Most common sugar alcohol
• Frequently used in sugar-free chewing gums, mint, and even toothpaste
• As sweet as regular sugar with about 40% fewer calories
• Relatively common sugar alcohol
• 60% as sweet as sugar with about 60% of the calories
• Usually used in sugar-free confectionaries, drinks, and desserts
• Minimal effect on blood sugar levels
• Found naturally in small amounts in produce ( fruits and vegetables)
• Can also be manufactured by adding hydrogen to maltose
• A low-calorie sweetener that’s commonly used in diabetic products
• Has 90% of the sweetness of sugar, but is lower in calories
• Unlike sugar, maltitol doesn’t cause cavities or tooth decay
• Isomalt has a very similar taste and texture to sugar, as it is derived from sucrose
• Relatively low in calories ( two calories per gram)
• Similar to maltitol, isomalt does not cause cavities or tooth decay
• Isomalt does not increase blood glucose or insulin levels
Non-nutritive sweeteners generally have little to no calories in comparison to sugar as they are not completely absorbed by the digestive system. Examples of non-nutritive sweeteners that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, and sucralose.
Stevia – a natural sweetener that’s recently gained popularity, is also listed under the non-nutritive sweetener category.
Stevia falls under the non-nutritive sweetener category and is naturally extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant.
• Stevia has recently increased in popularity as a more natural alternative to chemically manufactured artificial sweeteners
• It has been used as a sweetener and medicinal herb in other cultures but has only recently gained modern popularity
• There are no calories in stevia
• It is 200 times sweeter than sugar in the exact same concentration
• As a table-top sweetener, stevia is usually mixed with other artificial sweeteners to mask its bitter aftertaste
• Usually used in sugar-free cakes, chocolates, desserts, and even soft drinks
• When consumed, steviol glycosides are broken down into steviol and absorbed by the body. It is not stored and is subsequently excreted.
• Approved by the EU in 2010 after a comprehensive analysis was conducted. It is also approved by the FDA
Also known as Acesulfame potassium, Acesulfame K is a calorie-free sweetener that’s used in a range of products.
• 200 times sweeter than sugar
• Often blended with sucralose to decrease the bitter after taste
• It is not digested and is excreted shortly after consumption
• Used in numerous foods since 1988 including desserts, beverages, candies, and more
• Can be used in baking as it retains sweetness even in baking temperatures
• Often blended with other low-calorie sweeteners for a more sugar-like taste
• Made from a process that involves the transformation of an acetoacetic acid, and its combination with potassium for a stable and crystalline sweetener
Out of all the sweeteners, this is one of the most controversial sweeteners due to the range of scare stories that were circulated when the sweetener was first used. Fortunately, these stories had very little scientific basis, and aspartame is safe to consume.
• Low in calories and about 200 times sweeter than sugar
• Used as a sugar substitute in thousands of foods and drinks
• In 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), concluded that aspartame was safe for human consumption
• Aspartame is completely broken down during consumption, with hardly any entering the bloodstream
• If you have a rare genetic disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU), you need to regulate your aspartame consumption
• Aspartame contains a source of phenylalanine that occurs naturally in protein-rich foods such as eggs, milk, and meat
Consume in moderate amounts
As with all food, diabetic products with sugar substitutes would also need to be consumed in moderate amounts. Overconsumption can lead to certain side effects such as laxative issues. If you have any concerns in regard to sugar substitutes, it would be best to check with a medical professional first.
All in all, however, these diabetic products with sugar substitutes are certainly better than consuming products that contain regular sugar. At Karstel, we have plenty of products that are suitable for diabetics, do check out our range and you’ll be sure to find something to cater to your preferences.