Sugar free foods seem to be the magic solution for a diabetic diet. But they are not. Here is why they are not your best friend in the fight against type 2 diabetes.
Sugar free foods seemed like a great idea to me. I am not alone in that. Most diabetics and dieters have tried them.
That is why the food industry makes more and more foods with artificial sweeteners.
There is a reason we are so ready to believe they will help.
The connection between diabetes and sugar goes back more than 3,500 years.
In those days diabetes was known as the "sugar urine disease."
Long before modern chemistry, diseases were diagnosed by smelling and actually tasting urine. That is why doctors knew the urine of diabetics was sweet.
Years ago people called this disease sugar diabetes. Now doctors prefer the term diabetes mellitus. But since mellitus is Latin for honey sweet, it is really the same thing in fancy words.
So sugar and diabetes are connected in our minds, but that is not the only reason we are drawn to sugar free foods.
About 2,500 years ago a famous doctor from India identified diabetes with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
That was a long time before modern genetics, but the perception of diabetes being caused by obesity and lack of exercise remains to this day.
It explains why we make a connection between sugar, diabetes and obesity.
We cannot deny that four out of five type 2 diabetics are very overweight.
If we remove sugar, might we also eliminate obesity and type 2 diabetes? The idea is very appealing.
Can sugar free foods save us from diabetes? You could just replace the sugar with a sugar substitute, and this whole ugly disease would go away.
The problem is that sugar free foods have been around since the invention of saccharin in 1879. What is the result? Type 2 diabetes has not disappeared. In fact just the opposite: the number of diabetics grows every year.
Artificial sweeteners began with saccharin. It was not an instant success because it was so bitter.
But during World Wars I and II the
shortage of sugar sent people looking for something to take its place. Saccharin use soared.
Later on, lab tests showed it caused a kind of bladder cancer in male rats, and the FDA was ready to yank it from the shelves.
But people protested loudly, so they backed off. When they took a second look it was proved that humans could not get the kind of bladder cancer that grew in male rats. Even female rats did not get it.
So saccharin was saved. It is still used today in sugar free foods that can disguise its bitter aftertaste.
Today sugar free foods use many different kinds of substitutes. There is more information on artificial sweeteners here.
Why is stevia a front runner in the race for a good substitute for sugar? It is the only artificial sweetener that began as a real herb, not a laboratory chemical.
It was finally approved by the FDA in 2008, although it was used in Europe and Japan in sugar free foods from the 1970s and never had a whiff of bad side effects.
Sugar alcohols are very popular right now, especially in
and candy, but they do have unpleasant GI side effects. And the most popular sugar alcohol, maltilol, has almost as many calories as sugar.
It is important to understand why sugar free does not mean calorie free so you will not be tricked by labels.
In 2005, the University of Texas in San Antonio released a study and told the American Diabetic Association about it.
You can find the study on WebMD under the title "Drink More Diet Soda, Gain More Weight?"
The researcher proved that increased weight gain and obesity were clearly linked to increased use of diet soda.
Lab testing with rats had already proved this. The ones that were fed artificial sweeteners ate more food and became obese.
Find it out for yourself. Read the statistics on the huge growth of the use of sugar free foods and the continued increase in obesity in the United States.
But what does it mean? Do artificial sweeteners really cause obesity?
Perhaps trying to trick your appetite with sugar free foods makes it search for the calories it was expecting. That would lead to greater hunger. It makes sense, and it is what the lab rats seemed to be doing.
We are not lab rats, and the reasons why we eat have little to do with what is good or bad for us.
They have more to do with family history and what we are used to. They also involve emotions, like depression and the need for control.
Besides that, it is easy to convince yourself that drinking a diet soda means you can have dessert without consequences, or that it is okay to
eat more candy. After all, it is sugar free - right?
Psychologists have proven how much our perceptions affect our eating. You already know the trick of using a small plate to help you eat less.
Now researchers have tested restaurant patrons to see if using a smaller or larger fork affects how much people eat. They found out that it does.
If you are eating a meal a big fork makes you eat less. But if you are just snacking, a small fork works better, making you eat less. It seems to be all about perception.
It does not work to use sugar free foods to lose weight or stop type 2 diabetes. There is too much proof of that now.
Do you really need to trick yourself with plates and forks to change? I don't think so. Bad habits can be replaced with good ones over time and by choice.
Your family history can be overruled when you become more physically active and smart about nutrition. Issues of control and depression can be dealt with.
It is possible to find out what a good
is by understanding your own need for blood sugar control and weight
loss. Artificial sweeteners may help you meet your goals if you do not expect
Many desserts for diabetics use artificial sweeteners and naturally sweet substitutes like pineapple juice and applesauce.
Candies have been made by companies like Weight Watchers that use sugar alcohol. As long as you do not overdo it, the GI side effects may not bother you. Remember, though, that sugar free is not calorie free.
If you are convinced, like that doctor 2500 years ago, that obesity and being sedentary go along with diabetes, you know what to do.
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