Should I use artificial sweeteners if I have diabetes?

Cathy Clark-Reyes, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says that artificial sweeteners can help people with diabetes control their cravings for something sweet, but only to a degree. These sugar substitutes should be carefully integrated into well-balanced diets, the ADA says.

The ADA’s biggest cautionary note about sugar substitutes is to warn people with diabetes that even foods labeled sugar-free will derive other calories and carbohydrates from other ingredients. People with diabetes are advised to control their overall carbohydrate intake.

That means foods that carry claims like "sugar-free," "reduced sugar" or "no sugar added" are not necessarily carbohydrate-free or lower in carbohydrate than the original version of the food. Always check the nutrition facts panel, even for foods that carry these claims.

Eating foods made with artificial sweeteners on a regular basis is not recommended. Instead, practice eating a healthy, nutritiously balanced diet that focuses on portion control and consuming less sweetened foods, snacks, desserts and beverages.

Despite studies questioning the effects of sugar substitutes on glucose-tolerance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested and approved the most commonly used artificial sweeteners, including aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal), saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), sucralose (Splenda) and Stevia/rebaudioside A (Truvia).

People with diabetes have to be very cautious when it comes to so-called sugar-free foods. You’ve got to be educated about these supposed diabetic-friendly foods. You can consume a lot of these foods, but they still contain carbs. They might not be very filling, so some people can tend to overeat and derail weight-loss goals or healthy sugar levels.

Many people think artificial sweeteners are harmless additives and a good choice if you have diabetes. Not so. Artificial sweeteners slow metabolism and increase fat deposition, and can increase the risk of diabetes by 67%. If you need to satisfy a sweet tooth, you're better off enjoying foods made with real sweeteners on occasion and in moderation.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.