By the time this report appears in print, a good number of diabetics may have sunk their teeth into a variety of sweets, perhaps permitted only because these contain artificial sweeteners. This year, World Diabetes Day falls on November 14, which is only a day after Deepavali and also too early to come out of the festival-driven binging into sweets. What seems to encourage diabetics to throw caution to the winds is the availability of a variety of sweets with artificial sweeteners. But, is this advisable?
“Binging into these is not advisable. There must be some moderation,” says diabetologist V. Rajendran. There are sweeteners, or sugar substitutes, that do not drastically increase blood glucose level as sugar does. But, a lot of other ingredients that are high on fat and calories are used in preparing these sweets, he says.
“Diabetes is a cell disease. It turns the cell wall permeability abnormal and excessive glucose denatures protein. Multiple cells make multiple tissues and multiple tissues make an organ,” says cardiologist J.S. Bhuvaneswaran, while explaining how diabetes affects the heart.
“One gram of fat gives 9 calories, one gram of carbohydrate and protein given four calories each and one gm of alcohol gives 12 calories. The glycaemic index of food is vital to note in controlling diabetes and prevent end-organ damage. Artificial sweeteners are only a part of a food item. We must make people understand that calories are not only in sugar, but also in many other ingredients that make a food item,” Dr. Bhuvaneswaran explains.
Diabetics faces three to six times greater risk of heart diseases over non-diabetics. Diabetes affects the pain conducting nerves in the heart and that is why diabetics do not experience chest pain during a heart attack.
“We can call such food diabetogenic items and diabetics must keep away from these. Maida is one such item and its use is very high among Indians,” he says.
The website of a manufacturer of sweets for diabetes says that these products contain levulose, which is a natural sweetener with low glycaemic index. It also claims that sweets made of this do not taste as bitter as artificial sweeteners, suggesting what doctors refer to as the advantages of natural sweeteners over the synthetic ones.
“Aspartame and neotame are some of the sweeteners. Sorbital and xylitol are natural substitutes for sugar found in fruits, berries, mushroom and some vegetables. Eating fruits is a safer option over sweets,” says Dr. Rajendran.
It is better to consume tea and coffee without sugar or its substitutes. This is the best way to begin resisting sweets.