Artificial Sweeteners: Sweet or Sour?

by Leighann on February 26, 2010

Artificial sweeteners are something I never even considered giving my children. In fact I avoided them, rather I chose the least refined sweeteners available.

I bought snacks that were sweetened with evaporated cane juice over those with refined white sugar…or worse, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

But when your child is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, all bets are off.

Well, not all of them. But I did reconsider my stance against artificial sweeteners given that her choices were often: (a) something artificially sweetened, or (b) nothing.

But how do you reconcile a firm belief that artificial ingredients are bad when there are times that sugar-free JELL-O or Kool-Aid is the only alternative?

You give a little.

That’s something I’ve found I have had to do a lot since her diagnosis: Give a little.

Now I’m not saying that the artificial sweeteners are free-flowing at Chez D-Mom. No, they are limited.

The ironic thing is that my child never drank juice or Kool-Aid until after she became diabetic. Juice for lows and half strength sugar-free Kool-Aid or Crystal Light, but not all the time.

She’s even had sugar-free soda on occasion.

I know another diabetic child who is allowed to drink no carb soda all day long and I can tell you that ain’t good. All that caffeine!

And don’t get me started on sugar alcohols.

As part of our pump approval, we had to take a course in carb counting. We met with a local dietician, who within minutes said we were proficient (but we had to jump through the hoop for insurance approval). We took the opportunity to talk with her about other things, including the use of artificial sweeteners.

She stated that she would not be nervous giving our daughter artificial sweeteners within reason.

Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe?

We’ve all heard tales that artificial sweeteners cause cancer in lab rats, right?

I used to tease a coworker who drank more than three liters of diet soda each day that he was producing formaldehyde and was slowly preserving himself from the inside!

The Mayo Clinic website article “Artificial sweeteners: A safe alternative to sugar?” sheds some light on the acceptability of artificial sweeteners.

“People with diabetes may use artificial sweeteners because they make food taste sweet without raising blood sugar levels. But keep in mind that if you do have diabetes, some foods containing artificial sweeteners, such as sugar-free yogurt, can still affect your blood sugar level due to other carbohydrates or proteins in the food. Some foods labeled “sugar-free” — such as sugar-free cookies and chocolates — may contain sweeteners, such as sorbitol or mannitol, which contain calories and can affect your blood sugar level. Some sugar-free products may also contain flour, which will raise blood sugar levels.”

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following low-calorie sweeteners for use in a variety of foods. The FDA has established an ‘acceptable daily intake’ (ADI) for each sweetener. This is the maximum amount considered safe to eat each day during your lifetime. ADIs are intended to be about 100 times less than the smallest amount that might cause health concerns.”

Sweeteners

Source: MayoClinic.com

What I find interesting is the ADI, which is given for someone who weighs 150 pounds. Given that my daughter weighs a little less than 50, we can divide the acceptable daily intake by three.

So that child I know that has free-flowing soda may be exceeding his ADI.

Splenda

Reading that my daughter shouldn’t exceed the equivalent of two sodas sweetened with Splenda each day, I was curious as to what that amount actually meant. I wrote to the company asking a few questions.

From McNeil Nutritionals: (McNeil Nutrionals, the maker of Splenda is a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson.)

The Acceptable Daily Intake for sucralose was established by the FDA and is considered a safe intake level based on a 100 fold safety factor and daily consumption for life.

The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for sucralose is 5 mg per kg of body weight per day.
The ADI for a 150 pound person is 338 mg of sucralose. One packet of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener contains 12 mg of sucralose (28 packets/day) or one teaspoon of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener contains 6 mg of sucralose (56 teaspoons/day).

Thousands of products have SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener as an ingredient.  Due to the multitude and increasing number of products containing sucralose, we do not have a comprehensive list of products sweetened with SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener.   Instead, if you are interested in knowing whether a particular product contains SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener, look for the SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener logo on the front panel of the product or “sucralose” on the ingredient listing.

If you are interested in seeing how many milograms of  SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener is in a specific product that you use, you should contact that company directly to express your interest.

Conclusion?

The Mayo Clinic’s advice? “Use artificial sweeteners sensibly. It’s OK to substitute a diet soda for a regular soda, for example, but diet soda shouldn’t be the only beverage you drink.”

Do you use artificial sweeteners in foods you prepare at home or do you purchase ready-made foods containing them? Are you nervous about serving your children artificial sweeteners? Have you resigned that it’s just a necessary evil of diabetes management?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 k2 February 26, 2010 at 8:50 am

I rarely, if ever use artificial sweeteners – and when I do, it’s usually in iced tea. I grew up in the latter part of the Diabetes Dark Ages (the late 70′s)and saccarin was huge! I remember being so excited when aspertame came out on the market – but I’d get headaches after ingesting to much.
In my mid 20′s, I stopped using artificial sweeteners in my coffee and on my cereal and my Dr. was more than OK with that.
He’d rather me have cream in sugar in my morning coffee than drink orange juice.
I don’t drink soda (except for maybe three times a year- and then only Stewart’s diet Rootbeer or Diet Black Cherry in an ice cold glass bottle) so that’s not an issue.
Today we have the luxury of counting carbs and bolusing to cover said carbs and nothing is off limits!
YAY for progress!
Kelly K

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2 Leighann February 26, 2010 at 9:38 am

Kelly-

Exactly…nothing is off limits. (Did you see my post the other day about the kid who is completely restricted?)

I’m with you, I would rather her have the real thing and count and bolus. Even with the FDA defined ADI I still am a little leery.

I was laughing at myself this morning because I put a Splenda in my coffee (because that’s what was in my desk drawer) and then put real brown sugar in my Cream of Wheat. I guess I split the difference there!

For myself, I have been using Truvia (but that does contain sugar alcohols) or Stevia in the Raw in my iced tea.

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3 Jessica February 26, 2010 at 9:26 am

I never allowed my son to have any before his diagnosis. We steered him clear of HFCS, and like you, opted for things (often much more expensive things) sweetened with evaporated cane juice, fruit juice, etc.
When he was diagnosed and they ordered him a Crystal Light in the hospital, I about had a heart attack. I didn’t let him drink the first one. I had a harder time letting him drink artificial sweeteners than I did giving him his first injection- after all, that was saving his life.
We still choose things that are sweetened naturally, whenever possible. But like you said, there are those times when it’s artificial sweetener or nothing. When he has ketones at 3 AM, and he doesn’t want to wake up at all, much less to drink water, Crystal Light saves me. It’s a concession I didn’t want to have to make, but sometimes there isn’t another choice, so I chose to let him.
Awesome post.

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4 Leighann February 26, 2010 at 9:40 am

Jessica-

Same for us! I was so shocked when they brought Q a Crystal Light in the hospital. But by the end of the stay I realized that I could allow it…sometimes.

And since she had never had any of these drinks before, I always make it half strength and she’s never known the difference.

If only they made more of them that weren’t red or purple and stain teeth!

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5 Jessica February 26, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Leighann- if you have a Kroger , they sell Cool Splashers (store brand) by the crystal light, in individual packets. They make cherry, grape, and fruit punch and they are all clear! No dyes.

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6 Lorraine February 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Roaring Waters in this neck of the woods. http://brands.kraftfoods.com/caprisun/varieties.aspx?ctype=water We too, both before and after diagnosis, only allow such things as a “treat”.

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7 JULIE March 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm

We discovered natural sweetners like Purevia and Sun Crystals which are both refined form of a natural sweetner from the Stevia plant. However there are studies that articulate the dangers but South Americans as well as Japanese have been using this sweetner for over 100 years with no reported health alerts. There could other reasons why it took FDA so long to approve the sweetner…. corporate America? :D

We also use Agave syrup in place of maple or sugar free syrups to sweeten tea, waffles, pancakes, as carmel over ice cream.. etc. The taste of Agave is hearty and its a glycemic index is low.

I believe for all foods, it should be consumed in moderation. Too much of anything is not a good. I hope my suggestions help.

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