Artificial Sweeteners and the Paleoista

Did you know babies under one year of age shouldn’t be given honey?  I saw that warning on a honey container recently and didn’t know why.  Honey may contain bacterial spores that cause botulism in the wee ones.

A pinch of salt helps reduce bitterness in coffee

Paleo diet aficionados can satisfy a sweet tooth with honey or fruit.  Unfortunately for people with diabetes, those items can spike blood sugars too high.  Honey, for instance, has 17 grams of carbohydrate in one tablespoon (15 ml), which is more carb than in a tablespoon of white granulated table sugar.

Most diabetics eating paleo-style will need some limit on consumption of honey and fruit.  Or they could take more diabetes drugs to control blood glucose elevations.  Again, unfortunately, we don’t know the long-term health effects of most of our diabetes drugs.

How about getting a sweet fix with artificial sweeteners?  Paleo purists would say “fuggedaboudit.”  In theory, that’s fine.  But many paleo followers with diabetes won’t forget about it.  They’ll use artificial sweeteners, aka sugar substitutes.

If you’re gonna use ’em, think about stevia.  It’s derived from a natural source, the leaves of a plant in South America.  Admittedly, our forebears in eastern Africa wouldn’t have had access to it 50,000 years ago.  After the plant has been processed, it’s certainly a highly refined product going against the grain of the paleo movement.  Furthermore, one of the stevia market leaders in U.S. (Truvia) is mixed with erythritol.  To help you feel better about the erythritol (a sugar alcohol), note that it is found naturally in some fruits.  Another stevia commercial product in the U.S. is Pure Via.

Dietitian Brenna at her Eating Simple blog reviewed sugar impostors in January, 2012.  She favored stevia over the others, at least for non-diabetics who were tempted.  Brenna also linked to a Mayo Clinic review of artificial sweeteners.

Note that sugar alcohols like erythritol have the potential to raise blood sugar levels.  They shouldn’t raise it as much as table sugar, however.  With regard to sugar alcohols, Dr. Richard K. Bernstein urges caution, if not total avoidance.  Use your meter to see how they effect you.

If you’re in the habit of using one or two teaspoons of honey to sweeten tea or coffee, you’re blood sugar levels should be more stable and manageable if you use stevia instead.  Dr. Bernstein gives the green light to stevia powder or liquid, along with saccharin tablets or liquid, aspartame tablets, and sucralose tablets, acesulfame-K, and neotame tablets.  Stevia is the only one close to “natural.”

Steve Parker, M.D.

9 responses to “Artificial Sweeteners and the Paleoista

  1. I started suffering from terrible constipation, read about a study reporting that artificial sweeteners disturbed the gut flora causing constipation. Stopped using artificial sweeteners constipation disappeared. My ninety year old father suffered from constipation for several years. He was told to eat more fiber, that didn’t relieve the constipation. I had him to stop the artificial sweeteners in his coffee, and use sugar, within a few days the constipation was gone.

  2. “Note that sugar alcohols like erythritol have the potential to raise blood sugar levels”.

    Incorrect. Some sugar alcohols, like maltitol, do indeed cause a glucose and concomitant insulin spike; however, every clinical study of erythritol has shown it promotes no blood sugar or insulin reaction. The molecule is too small to be converted to any useful sugar. The majority is passed out through the urine, and a small proportion makes it into the large intestine, when it is eventually defected out.

    When writing about these things, it behoove a one to be precise and factually accurate, not merely to engage in “mood music”.

  3. I’m a big fan of stevia – safe for most people including kids and diabetics (unlike artificial sweeteners)

  4. I use “Coconut Crystals” Raw Coconut Crystals. It’s delicious. Tastes just like brown sugar, and it’s supposed to absorb more slowly or differently than regular sugar or other sweetners.

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  6. Hans Gilcrease

    Products that are labeled zero calories are not that promising. It’s true. There are no calories in them but to make them taste as good as they are, substitutes are added. Artificial sweeteners that come with side effects are included in the ingredients. They have to be, to redeem the flavor. Otherwise, the products will end up too awful to be a delight.You’d think you’re in the right track with artificial sweeteners. With no calories, you can say goodbye to some extra pounds in your system. You feel as if you’re doing alright. Well, you’re not. Truth be told, if you intend on losing weight through these empty calories, you are kidding yourself. Not only do they not have any dieting advantage, they, also, puncture your body with other effects…

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