Artificial Sweeteners: Understanding sugar substitutes

If you are thinking to shed a few pounds first thing that comes to your brain is; cutting down the daily calorie intake.  We consume a lot of calories from sugar every day. People try to control sugar intake by replacing it with sugar substitutes to shed some weight. If you are thinking to take that approach it is important to know about all sugar substitutes available in the market so can make the right choice.  Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes are found in a variety of food and beverages marketed as “sugar-free” or “diet,” including soft drinks.


The American Heart Association recommends that most women should eat no more than 100 extra sugar calories per day and men no more than 150 calories–or 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 added teaspoons for men. Each gram of regular table sugar contains 4 calories. A teaspoon of sugar is about 4 grams. For perspective, consider that one 12-ounce can of a sweetened cola contains 8 teaspoons of added sugar, or about 130 calories.

Always check with your doctor or dietitian about your daily sugar intake if you are diabetic.

What are artificial sweeteners, refined sugars and natural sugars?

Artificial Sweeteners:

They are usually called zero calorie sugar. Artificial sweeteners are non-nutritive. They have virtually no calories. If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight, products sweetened with artificial sweeteners may be one of the best options. Always check with your doctor or dietitian about using any sugar substitutes if you have diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners may be a good alternative to sugar if you have diabetes. Artificial sweeteners generally don’t raise blood sugar levels because they are not carbohydrates. Artificial sweeteners don’t contribute to tooth decay. Some of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners are Saccharin, cyclamate, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame.

Saccharin and Cyclamate are derived from coal tar. They are linked to bladder cancer in rats. They is not allowed to add to foods. Cyclamate is not available in USA but it is available in Canada; sold under the names of Sucry, sweet’N Low sugar, Twin and weightwatchers.

Aspartame – also known as NutraSweet® and Equal® is made of two amino acids (phenylalanine and aspartic acid). There has been much controversy about aspartame causing cancer since its initial approval by the FDA in 1974. However there is no specific scientific evidence reported to date. Many people have reported headaches and other reactions attributed to its use.

Sucralose; most widely known as Splenda® is found in a variety of reduced sugar foods and sold as a tabletop sweetener. Sucralose is made from sugar, and measures the same way that sugar does. Some people have reported they experience an after taste after consumption. Sucralose was approved by the FDA for general purpose use in 1999. It has been proven safe to use by people of all types, including children, pregnant women, and diabetics.

acesulfameK (potassium ) is an artificial sweetener which, like aspartame and saccharin, has no calories and does not cause dental caries. Acesulfame-K is two hundred times sweeter than sucrose. It is now used in more than 2000 products around the world, mainly in conjunction with aspartame. These two sweeteners have a synergistic effect, each boosting the sweetness of the other. Excessive consumption of potassium can lead to a fatal health condition; therefore beware of quantities consumed on regular bases.

Refind Sugars:

Brown sugar, granulated sugar, cane sugar, honey (pasteurized), rice syrup, maple syrup, corn syrup, corn sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, concentrated fruit juice, tapioca syrup, glucose, crystalline fructose, lactose (pasteurized), stevia, turbinado, sucanat and molasses are are refind sugars.

Sugar alcohols – Sugar alcohols (polyols) are carbohydrates that occur naturally in certain fruits and vegetables, but they also can be manufactured. They are commonly used in calorie reduced foods in combination with artificial sweeteners as they have a lower sweetness taste. Sugar alcohols aren’t considered non-caloric or non-nutritive sweeteners because they contain calories. But they’re lower in calories than is regular sugar, making them an attractive alternative.

Novel sweeteners are combinations of various types of sweeteners. Novel sweeteners, such as stevia, are hard to fit into one particular category because of what they’re made from and how they’re made.

As with artificial sweeteners, the FDA regulates the use of sugar alcohols. Approved sugar alcohols and novel sweeteners include Erythritol, Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates , Isomalt, Lactitol, Maltitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol, Xylitol, Stevia preparations that are highly refined (Pure Via, Truvia)(not whole-leaf stevia or crude stevia extracts)

As with artificial sweeteners, the FDA regulates sugar alcohols as food additives. Sugar alcohols typically are labeled as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS)

Natural sweeteners

Natural sweeteners are sugar substitutes that are often promoted as healthier options than processed table sugar or other sugar substitutes. But even these so-called natural sweeteners often undergo processing and refining, including agave nectar.

Among the natural sweeteners that the FDA recognizes as being generally safe for consumption are: 

  • Date sugar
  • Grape juice concentrate
  • Honey
  • Maple sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Agave nectar

Possible health concerns with natural sweeteners
So-called natural sweeteners are generally safe. But there’s no health advantage to consuming added sugar of any type. And consuming too much added sugar, even natural sweeteners, can lead to health problems such as tooth decay, poor nutrition, weight gain and increased triglycerides. Also, be aware that honey can contain small amounts of bacterial spores that can produce botulism toxin. Because of that, honey shouldn’t be given to babies less than 1 year old.

Use commonsense using artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes

Educate yours well before choosing any sugar substitute. Make a right choice which suites to your health and need. Get informed and look beyond the hype.  If you are replacing your sugar intake with artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes for weight management it should be used only in moderation. Any food that is marketed as sugar-free doesn’t mean it’s free of calories. If you eat too many sugar-free foods, you can still gain weight if they have other ingredients that contain calories. And remember that processed foods, which often contain sugar substitutes, generally don’t offer the same health benefits as do whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables.


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