Updated: Apr 2, 2019
Thanks to the increase in lifestyle diseases such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes, one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry is the health foods segment which includes food and beverages that are marketed as ‘sugar-free’ or ‘low sugar’. These food products generally make use of sugar substitutes or sweeteners.
The issue of sweeteners can be quite confusing as some manufacturers use ‘natural’ sweeteners even though they are process or refined for example stevia, whilst other artificial sweeteners are actually derived from naturally occurring substances – for example sucralose comes from sugar.
It is therefore useful to understand what the different types of artificial sweeteners are:
These are synthetic sugar substitutes – many are derived from naturally occurring substances like sugar or herbs. They are also called ‘intense sweeteners’ as they are many times sweeter than sugar.
Uses include soft drinks, powdered drink powders, baked goods, sweets, puddings, canned foods, jams and jellies and dairy products.
Advantages are that they do not contribute to tooth decay, help with weight control and weight loss and because they are not carbohydrates they do not increase blood sugar levels and so are safe for diabetics.
These are generally sweeteners that are difficult to fit into the normal categories because of where they come from and how they are manufactured. Stevia is an example of a novel sweetener as well as tagatose (which is a low carbohydrate sweetener similar to fructose but derived from lactose).
Also known as plyols are carbohydrates that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables although they can also be manufactured. The are not alcoholic and are not considered “intense sweeteners” because they are often less sweet than sugar but are lower in calories making them a good alternative to sugar.
Sugar alcohols are often combined with artificial sweeteners to enhance sweetness. The are found in many processed foods including chocolate, chewing gum and tooth paste.
Advantages include being tooth friendly and although they do contribute to calories in the diet, it is less than sugar so will help weight control and/or loss. As a carbohydrate they do raise sugar levels but sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed so the effect on blood sugar is less significant.
Natural sweeteners are sugar substitutes that are considered to have more health benefits than sugar. These include fruit juices and nectars, honey, molasses and maple syrup.
Whilst natural sugars are healthier their vitamin and mineral content is similar to that of sugar. Like conventional sugar, natural sweeteners when not used in moderation can cause tooth decay, weight gain and affect blood sugar levels.
Chemgrit offers several natural sweetener solutions including stevia, maltitol, Monk Fruit and sucralose. They also supply the following synthetic sweeteners – sodium cyclamate, sodium saccharin, acesulfame k, and aspartame.
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[Additional Info: www.mayoclinic.org]