Cut Out Sugars to Stop Diabetes

Diabetes and heart disease risk may be reduced by cutting added sugars from diet

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Eating a high-sugar, high-calorie diet can increase your weight and boost your risk of diseases like diabetes. In turn, cutting calories from your diet can protect you from such diseases.

The American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association have released a statement in support of non-nutritive, or low-calorie, sweeteners as substitutes for sugar.

Replacing sugar with low-calorie sweeteners may help people reach a healthy body weight, reducing the risk of both diabetes and heart disease.

"Eat healthy and exercise to help prevent diabetes."

"While they are not magic bullets, smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could help you reduce added sugars in your diet, therefore lowering the number of calories you eat," said lead author Christopher Gardner, PhD, of Stanford University.

"Reducing calories could help you attain and maintain a health body weight, and thereby lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes," he said.

Dr. Gardner pointed out that there are exceptions.

"For example, if you choose a beverage sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners instead of a 150-calorie soft drink, but then reward yourself with a 300-calorie slice of cake or cookies later in the day, non-nutritive sweeteners are not going to help you control your weight because you added more calories to your day than you subtracted," he said.

"However, if you substitute the beverage with non-nutritive sweeteners for a 150-calorie sugar-sweetened soft drink, and don't compensate with addition calories, that substitution could help you manage your weight because you would be eating fewer calories," he said.

The statement covered a variety of low-calorie sweeteners, including acesulfame potassium, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, stevia and sucralose.

Based on research showing that diets high in added sugars can lead to obesity and heart disease, the American Heart Association suggests that women limit their added sugars to 100 calories per day and men limit their added sugar intake to 150 calories per day.

Low calorie levels and reduced heart disease risk may not be the only upsides of using non-nutritive sweeteners. They also do not boost blood sugar levels.

"Soft drinks sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners do not increase blood sugar levels, and thus can provide a sweet option for those with diabetes," said Diane Reader, RD, CDE, of the American Diabetes Association and one of the study's authors.

Low-calorie sweeteners could be used in dietary plans that limit carbohydrate intake, which helps people maintain a healthy body weight and control diabetes.

"For anyone trying to monitor or reduce their intake of calories or added sugars, the potential impact of choosing ‘diet products’ with non-nutritive sweeteners needs to be considered within the context of the overall diet," said Dr. Gardner.

Dr. Gardner added that reducing calories and added sugars also involves eating foods with neither added sugars nor low-calorie sweeteners. These foods include vegetables, fruits, high-fiber whole grains and low- or non-fat dairy.

As the authors note, there remains limited evidence that low-calorie sweeteners reduce added sugars or carbohydrate intake.

Still, they write, "Limiting added sugars is an important strategy for supporting optimal nutrition and health weights."

In conclusion, they write, "The evidence reviewed suggests that when used judiciously, non-nutritive sweeteners could facilitate reductions in added sugars intake, thereby resulting in decreased total energy and weight loss/weight control…"

The statement is published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation and the American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Care.

Study authors Judith Wylie-Rosett, EdD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Rachel K. Johnson, RD, MPH, PhD, of the University of Vermont, disclosed their relationships that could be perceived as conflicts of interest.

Dr. Wylie-Rosett received a significant research grant from Kraft and is a consultant for Unilever.

Dr. Johnson received grants from Dairy Management Inc., New England Dairy Promotion Board and the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council. She is also a consultant for Dairy Management Inc. and on the Milk Processor Education Program Medical Advisory Board.

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Review Date: 
July 12, 2012
Last Updated:
January 4, 2013