Alternate Names : Sugar, Sugar Substitutes, Artificial Sweeteners
There are two kinds of sweeteners:
Nutritive sweeteners supply
and energy to the body. Like sugar, they have 4 calories per gram. Examples
include honey and corn syrup.
Non-nutritive sweeteners are called sugar substitutes.
They have no calories and provide no energy to the body. Most do not
break down in the body as sugar does. They simply leave the body
in the urine. Examples include aspartame and saccharin.
All nutritive sweeteners, except sugars found in alcohol,
provide 4 calories per gram, which is 16 calories per teaspoon. Compared
with fat, which has 9 calories per gram, sugars, like other
are lower in calories. When people eat too many sugary foods, though,
they may still gain weight. The average American eats 20 teaspoons of
sugar per day. People often are not aware they are eating so much sugar.
Government guidelines recommend eating much smaller amounts of
sugar and sugary foods. Fatty foods and sweets appear at the top and
smallest part of the Food Guide Pyramid.
Nutritive sweeteners include:
Table sugar. This includes brown, powdered, granulated,
and raw sugar. These sugars come from sucrose, which is made from
sugar cane or sugar beets.
Corn sweeteners. These sweeteners are made from corn
and provide 60 percent of the average person's sugar intake. High-
fructose corn syrup is used heavily in sodas and juice drinks.
Dextrose. This sweeteners is glucose mixed with water.
Fructose. this substance, which is found naturally in
fruits, is also now sold in granulated form.
Honey. This familiar, natural sweetener is made by bees
and is a mixture of fructose, glucose, and water.
Maple sugar. This is another natural sugar that comes
from the sap of sugar maple trees.
Molasses. This sweet syrup is a byproduct from
making sugar cane into sugar.
Sugar alcohols. This type, which includes sorbitol,
mannitol, and xylitol, is used in candy, chewing gum, and in some baked
goods. Sugar alcohols have about half the calories of other nutritive
sweeteners. They are called sugar alcohols because of their chemical
structure. They do not contain alcohol. They are not included on the food
label under grams of sugar but they are part of the ingredient list.
Unlike sugar, they do not contribute to dental cavities. Sugar alcohols
don't break down completely in the body, so they do not affect blood
The FDA has approved four non-nutritive sweeteners. They are:
Saccharin, which was first made in 1879. It
comes from a substance that occurs naturally in grapes, and is 300 times
sweeter than sugar. Saccharin is the sweetener used in Sweet 'N Low and
Sugar Twin. It is also combined with aspartame in fountain sodas.
The FDA proposed a ban on saccharin in 1977, when it was found that it
could cause cancer in research animals. But it was later proved that this
only occurred when saccharin was taken in much larger amounts than
humans usually use. The FDA withdrew the ban in 1991, but products
made with saccharin must have warning labels. The label reads:
"Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product
contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in
Aspartame is made from amino acids, the
building blocks of protein. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. It
is the most popular sugar substitute. It is used in more than 150 different
types of products. Aspartame is available as a packaged sweetener
called Equal or is added to foods under the name NutraSweet. The
FDA approved aspartame in 1981. Since that time, there have been
many claims that aspartame use is linked with cancer and other diseases.
In fact, this is one of the most studied sweeteners of all times. The FDA has
conducted 26 different studies! But the FDA stands by its approval of this
substance as "safe for human consumption."
All foods or drinks that contain
aspartame must have a warning that states that the product contains
phenylalanine. This is for people that have a rare genetic order called
also known as PKU. All babies are tested for this shortly after birth.
People with PKU cannot break down phenylalanine in the body, which
can be toxic. So people who have PKU must be careful about eating foods
that contain aspartame.
Acesulfame-K (Ace-K) is also 200 times
sweeter than sugar. The "K" stands for potassium. This sweetener
does not break down when heated, so it can be used in cooking and
baking. It does not provide bulk like sugar does, so it may not work
in some recipes. The brand name of the tabletop sweetener is Sweet
One or Sunette. The FDA approved Ace-K in 1988.
Sucralose is the newest non-nutritive
sweetener. Sucralose is made from table sugar, but it cannot be
digested, so it adds no calories. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar.
It is approved for use in desserts, candies, and non-alcoholic drinks.
It does not break down when heated, so it can be used in cooking and
baking. It is marketed under the trade name Splenda. The FDA
approved Sucralose in 1998.
More sugar substitutes are being developed and reviewed.
Sugar substitutes must go through safety testing before they
are put on the market. The FDA approves and constantly
re-evaluates them. It can take up to as many as 10 years for a
sweetener to go through intensive reviews.
Non-nutritive or artificial sweeteners can be part of a
healthy diet. They allow people to enjoy the sweet taste of foods
without the extra calories. They can help with weight control, when
used in combination with a regular exercise program and healthy
eating. They also allow people who have diabetes to satisfy sweet
cravings without affecting blood glucose levels like sugar would.
Sugar can also be a part of a healthy diet if used in moderation.
People should check food labels and ingredient lists to look for
sweeteners in foods.