DIABETES QUESTION OF MONTH - Health BeatIf you’re living with diabetes or have been recently diagnosed, you surely have questions and concerns about this chronic condition. This is the next installment in a series of frequently asked questions about diabetes, with answers from a Spectrum Health team of doctors, nurses and dietitians.


I enjoy sweets, but am trying to be careful about what I eat. Are sugarless candies and treats a good alternative for me?


They’re an alternative, but many of them aren’t much better for you than regular candy. Their effect on you depends on the type of sweetener used by the candy maker.

Sugarless candies are often sweetened with sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol and maltitol. They can raise your blood sugar level, although not as much as regular sugar.

A note of caution: Candies sweetened with sugar alcohols can cause gas, bloating, or diarrhea. The amount of candy you have to eat to cause side effects will vary from person to person.

If you do have sugar alcohol-sweetened candies, eat in moderation … just as you should any candy.

Some candies contain non-nutritive sweeteners. Examples of these are stevia, sucralose, aspartame and saccharin. Unlike sugar alcohol, these sweeteners do not affect blood sugar unless they’re used in combination with other starches or sugars in the candy. Always read the label to be sure.

Remember, just because a treat is sugar-free does not mean it’s calorie free. Sugar-free candies can often be higher in fat than their original sugar-containing versions.

And one more note: the American Diabetes Association recommends that parents make sure their candy-consuming children get some exercise to help work off those extra carbs. As always, the guiding principle is moderation and balance.

Do you have a diabetes-related question you’d like to pose to our expert? If so, comment on this story with your question, and we’ll seek to get you answers.