The food industry offers a variety of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners. From sugar alcohols, chemical compounds, and plant sugars, nonnutritive sweeteners have come a long way from cyclamates (1969). Sweeteners are known as nutritive or nonnutritive sweeteners. Nutritive sweeteners provide a sweet taste with approximately four calories per gram of energy. Some examples of nutritive sweeteners are honey, table sugar, syrups, etc. Nonnutritive sweeteners provide zero to two calories per gram. Some examples of nonnutritive sweeteners are sugar alcohols and artificial products.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol provide a few calories with minimal rise in blood sugar.
Sorbitol is 50-70% sweeter than table sugar, provides 2.6 calories per gram, and creates a laxative effect if consumed in quantities greater than 50 grams. One teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to 4 calories per gram. Food products that contain sorbitol are sugar free desserts, pancake mix, syrup (Bernard foods, Estee, Murray) and sugar free mints.
Mannitol is derived from a seaweed plant, manna, and is 50-70% sweeter than table sugar, provides 1.6 calories per gram, and creates a laxative effect if consumed in quantities greater than 20 grams. Food products that contain mannitol are diabetic specialty foods, and sugarless chewing gum.
Xylitol occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, with a similar sweet taste as table sugar, and provides 2.4 calories per gram. Food products that contain xylitol are throat lozenges, cough syrup, children’s chewable vitamins, toothpaste and mouthwash.
Maltitol is derived from maltose, is 90% as sweet as sugar, and provides 2.1 calories per gram. Food products that contain maltitol are sugarless candies, gums, baked goods, and ice cream.
Artificial sweeteners impart a sweet taste, zero calories, and no effect on blood sugar. FDA approved artifical sweeteners are saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame-K, neotame, and sucralose.
Saccharin is found in Sweet ‘n Low, Sweet Twin, Sweet ’n low Brown, Necta Sweet. It is 200-700 times sweeter than table sugar. The Food and Drug Administration approved saccharin not to exceed 12 mg per fluid ounce or the equivalent of 1 teaspoon as a table sugar. Saccharin provides zero calories per gram. Food products that contain saccharin are table sugar, beverages, and chewing gum.
Aspartame is composed of two amino acids, L-phenylalanine and L-aspartic acid. Individuals diagnosed with PKU (phenylketonuria) are sensitive to aspartame and need to restrict aspartame intake. The amino acids are metabolized to provide 4 calories per gram. Since aspartame is 160-220 sweeter than sugar, aspartame in small amounts provides fewer calories in comparison to sugar. Aspartame is found in tabletop sweeteners e.g. NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin, breakfast cereals, yogurt, gelatins, puddings, frozen desserts, and chewing gum. An individual can experience allergy-like symptoms such as tingling of lips, tongue, and throat with or without respiratory problems.
Sucralose is composed of sucrose and chlorine. It is the chlorine that modifies the sugar molecule to produce sucralose. Many common foods contain chlorine such as lettuce, tomatoes, melons, mushrooms, peanut butter, and salt. Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than table sugar and cannot be digested. Sucralose is found in Splenda, baked goods, jams, jellies, ice cream, fruit pie filling, and both hot and cold beverages.
Acesulfame-K is a potassium base sweetener and 200 times sweeter than table sugar. Acesulfame-K provides zero calories and remains heat stable. It is sometimes used in combination with aspartame or other sweeteners to enhance the taste in foods and beverages. Acesulfame-K is found in gum, desserts, alcoholic beverages, syrups, candies, sauces, hot cocoa, and yogurt.
Neotame is derived from phenylalanine, and aspartic acid. It is 7,000-13,000 times sweeter than table sugar. Individuals diagnosed with PKU (phenylketonuria) are sensitive to aspartame and need to restrict neotame intake. Neotame is found in beverages, frozen desserts, gum, baked goods, sauces, and cereals.
Sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners can contribute taste to a healthy diet. When selecting a sugar substitute, consider the following:
What is your documented medical history? If you have a history of renal disease, genetic disorders, immune disorders, or intestinal diseases e.g. Crohn’s disease and, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, artificial sweeteners can cause intestinal and kidney irritability. You should probably speak with your family physician.
Do you have a medically documented history of food allergies? Some people experience skin reactions from artificial sweeteners.
Other Nutrition Web Sites
General Nutrition information:
Body Image and Disordered Eating Concerns:
www.ncaa.org (Search on: ncaa drug testing, banned supplements)