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If you are diabetic Valentine’s Day can be rough when you are looking at all that candy and other things that can really put you blood sugar off the roof. You may also be wondering can I use sweeteners and what is the difference in them. One warning we can give you is that if someone is so kind to give you diabetic candy be careful.  Sugar Free Candy often contains sorbitol. Sorbitol is also used in sugar-free” gum, as well as other products for diabetics including cough syrups.  Here is the catch with sorbitol, “sorbitol is also a laxative—it draws water into the large intestine—and as little as four sticks of gum can cause bloating and abdominal pain.”[1] So it is important not to think If one is good eating as many as I want is going to be great. The results could be devastating to a “Happy Valentine’s Day.” If you have irritable bowel syndrome or trouble digesting fructose (the sugar in fruit), avoid sorbitol altogether. Check labels of gum in particular for the category “sugar alcohols,” the family of sweeteners that includes mannitol and xylitol as well as sorbitol. All three can act as laxatives, though the effect of xylitol is milder.”[2]

So what are artificial sweeteners?

  • “Sugars are naturally occurring carbohydrates. They contain calories and raise your blood glucose levels — the level of sugar in your blood. Examples are brown sugar, cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, fructose, honey, and molasses.
  • Reduced-calorie sweeteners are sugar alcohols. These sweeteners have about half the calories of sugars and are considered a separate type of carbohydrates. They can raise your blood sugar levels, although not as much as other carbohydrates. Examples include isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. You’ll often find these reduced-calorie sweeteners in sugar-free candy and gum.
  • Low-calorie sweeteners are “artificial.” This means they were created in a lab rather than found naturally. Low-calorie sweeteners are considered “free foods.” They have no calories and do not raise your blood sugar levels.”[3]

The list below is a summary of the best artificial sweeteners. They are FDA approved and approved by the American Diabetes Association.

  • Saccharin can be found as Sweet ‘N Low and Sugar Twin. You can use it in both hot and cold foods. Avoid this sweetener if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Aspartame is found as NutraSweet and Equal. You can use it in both cold and warm foods. It may lose some sweetness at high temperatures. People who have a condition called phenylketonuria should avoid this sweetener.
  • Acesulfame potassium or acesulfame-K is found as Sweet One, Swiss Sweet, and Sunett. You can use it in both cold and hot foods, including in baking and cooking.
  • Sucralose is found as Splenda. You can use it in hot and cold foods, including in baking and cooking. Processed foods often contain it.

When you check prepared foods consider the following concerning sweeteners:

  • No Sugar– this is a clear label in that the product contains no sugar.
  • No added Sugar– this means the product could contain sugar such as sugar from fruit called fructose. Additional sweeteners such as sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners could have also been added.
  • Sugar Free means the product contains no sugar. However, it may contain sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners.
  • Dietetic can mean the product has reduced calories.
  • All natural simply means that the product does not contain artificial ingredients. It may contain natural sweeteners, such as sugars or sugar alcohol.[4]

Make sure you read the ingredients list. It should guide you in what you are about to eat. Artificial sweeteners will give you another strategy for balancing you life and dealing with diabetes.  Just remember not to over indulge when using them.




[1] Can Sugar Free Foods Make You Sick? Jan 27, 2008 , Newsweek.

[2] Ibid

[3] Types of Artificial Sweeteners, Web MD.

[4] Ibid