Hidden Glycemic Index Risks of Artificially Sweetened Products



  • While it may seem that artificial sweeteners cater perfectly to diabetics and “weight-watchers”, many artificially-sweetened foods hide a high Glycemic Index (GI) and/or Glycemic Load (GL).
  • The Glycemic Index is a measure of how a food affects blood sugar level.
  • High GI/GL foods are widely considered to result in higher and more rapid increase in blood glucose levels and may present a danger to diabetics looking to avoid blood sugar “spikes.”
  • Manufacturers often replace common compounds like sugar with ingredients like sucralose and refined starches, which can actually lead to worse GI/GL effects than sucrose.

If you’re like most consumers, comparing healthy products usually comes down to one of three numbers – calories, fat, and sugar. Supplement and food manufacturers know how to use this to their advantage. The number one tool in their arsenal is artificial sweeteners. Replacing natural sugar sources with artificial sweeteners can quickly decrease the calories and sugar content, and make a product look much healthier. However, there are hidden risks associated with these products, especially for consumers who suffer from or are at risk for diabetes.

When manufacturers replace glucose with artificial sweeteners, they often use the saved calories for ingredients that can have similar or greater nutrition risks–due to their Glycemic Index. The Glycemic Index is a measure of an ingredient’s effect on increasing blood sugar levels. Replacing glucose with refined white flour or rice powder (GI > 80) can actually increase a product’s overall Glycemic Load (total Glycemic Index content). For reference, pure glucose has a glycemic index of 100, and fructose (GI = 15) and sucrose (GI = 65) have even lower Glycemic Indexes than refined flour.

Many of the world’s most popular diets, from the Adkin’s Diet and South Beach Diet, to the more trendy picks like the Paleo Diet, are rooted in the concept of minimizing Glycemic Load. While scientists and dieticians have long fought over the details of these diets, the GI/GL portion of the diet is well-supported, and is often recommended to diabetics and non-diabetics alike.

To show how common artificial sweeteners are in the dietary supplement industry, LabDoor’s scientists recorded the presence of various artificial sweeteners during its most recent product quality analyses. Among protein supplements analyzed by LabDoor, over 80% contained the artificial sweetener sucralose, which was actually higher than the proportion that contained whey protein.

Related: Aspartame vs Sucralose vs Saccharin

And just as artificially sweetened food can hide a high GI/GL and pose a threat to diabetics, their high calorie content may also prove counter-effective to those trying to diet or lose weight. Artificially sweetened cookies, cake, and ice cream, for example, usually contain little or no calories from sugar, but replace the flavors with artificial preservatives, sweeteners, processed carbs, and assorted fats. The overall health effect of the artificially sweetened product ends up being worse than a naturally-sweetened one.

It is generally recommended to consume artificially sweetened foods with caution, especially those who tend to eat ‘diet’ or ‘low-sugar’ products on a regular basis. LabDoor’s ‘Nutrition Score’ and ‘Ingredient Safety’ ratings on dietary supplement products measure the overall effects of this trade-off, including the clinical health risks associated with added sweeteners and preservatives.