Does NutraSweet stimulate my food wants?


I am an insulin dependent diabetic on 40 units of Lente per day. This last year, I have been using NutraSweet (Equal) for a sweetener on my cereal. Recently a friend told me that NutraSweet increased the flow of insulin in your body and as a result increased your food wants. I have gained considerable weight in the last year and my need for food has increased. Sometimes, I feel if I don’t have food immediately, I will “pass out”. I was blaming the weight gain on the fact I am not as active as I used to be. I have been retired for several years and have a woman do my heavy cleaning each week. I am also arthritic and would like to get my weight down.

My question is: Does NutraSweet stimulate my food wants? Would I be better off going back to the saccharin sweeteners?

NutraSweet (aspartame) does not increase the flow of insulin as NutraSweet contains two amino acids (aspartic acid and phenylalanine) that are the building blocks of protein, not sugar. Your body secretes insulin to help glucose in your blood to enter your body cells and produce energy. Most blood glucose comes from carbohydrates in the food you eat, but your body can make glucose from stored proteins and fat as well. The small amount of protein in NutraSweet does not stimulate your body to secrete insulin. However, maybe you are eating more foods sweetened with NutraSweet and the carbohydrates in those foods will need insulin to be metabolized by cells. Sugar-free does not mean carbohydrate free or calorie free.

A person with diabetes takes insulin to control his / her blood glucose within normal ranges because their body doesn’t make enough insulin to meet their needs. The amount of insulin injected varies among individuals (10 to 80 units per day). If a person with diabetes overeats, he/she may need more insulin to interact with the excess glucose to maintain normal blood glucose. A person with diabetes may have higher levels of insulin in his / her blood than a person who doesn’t have diabetes. This additional insulin makes more glucose available for energy production. When energy is produced, but not needed, it is stored as body fat. Insulin favors the storage of fat.

First, choose an artificial sweetener that you prefer the taste of on your food. Currently, you can choose sucralose (Splenda) saccharin (Sweet-n-Low) or aspartame (Equal) in the United States. Cyclamate and aspartame are available in Canada.

Second, start a regular exercise program. Discuss this with your doctor as he/she would be the best person to suggest exercises that would not aggravate your arthritis or cause low blood glucose. Swimming and water exercise classes are good because the water relieves the weight bearing on sore arthritic joints. Also, pools for water exercises can be heated to a warm, comforting temperature.

Exercise burns some excess calories without needing insulin. A strenuous exercise program may even decrease a person with diabetes need for insulin. Exercise also helps increase your number of calories burned even when you are not exercising. Exercise gives you a feeling of well being and would help you slowly lose weight.

Do not make any changes in your diabetic eating plan or insulin dose without first discussing changes with your dietitian and doctor. If you have had diabetes a few years, you may have slowly increased your food intake over the years. It would also be wise to make an appointment with a dietitian to review your eating plan and assess the number of calories you eat.