Sugar substitute

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A sugar substitute is a food additive which duplicates the effect of sugar in taste, but often with less food energy. In Commonwealth English, sugar substitutes are often referred to as "sweeteners" (to the exclusion of sugar).

An important class of sugar substitutes are known as high intensity sweeteners. These are compounds whose sweetness is many times that of sucrose; accordingly, much less sweetener is required and energy contribution often negligible. The sensation of sweetness caused by these compounds (the "sweetness profile") is sometimes notably different from sucrose, so they are used in complex mixtures that achieve the most natural sweet sensation.

If the sucrose (or other sugar) replaced has contributed to the texture (mouthfeel) of the product, then a bulking agent is often also needed. This may be seen in soft drinks such as cola labeled as "diet" or "light" or "economy" which contain artificial sweeteners and often have notably different mouthfeel; or in table sugar replacements which mix maltodextrins with an intense sweetener to achieve satisfactory texture sensation.

The majority of sugar substitutes approved for food use are artificially synthesized compounds. However, some natural sugar substitutes are known — including sorbitol and xylitol, which are found in berries, fruit, vegetables and mushrooms. (Although natural, they may be produced synthetically in bulk food production, to lower production costs.) Other natural substitutes are known but are yet to gain official approval for food use.

Another important group of non-sugar sweeteners are the polyols. These are generally less sweet than sucrose, but have similar bulk properties and can be used in a wide range of food products. Sometimes the sweetness profile is 'fine-tuned' with high intensity sweeteners as described above. As with all food products the development of a formulation to replace sucrose is a complex process.

Contents

Reasons for using sugar substitutes

There are three main reasons for using a sugar substitute:

  • To assist in weight loss (and metabolic health) — some people choose to limit their food energy intake by substituting high-energy sugar with other sweeteners with little or no energy. This allows them to eat the same foods they normally would while allowing them to lose weight and avoid other problems associated with excessive energy intake.
  • Diabetes mellitus — people with diabetes have difficulty regulating their blood sugar levels. By limiting their sugar intake with artificial sweeteners, they can enjoy a varied diet while closely controlling their sugar intake. Also, some sugar substitutes do release energy, but are metabolized more slowly, allowing blood sugar levels to remain more stable over time.

Sugar substitute health controversies

There is ongoing controversy over the supposed health risks of artificial sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame. Some studies suggest that they may cause diseases in laboratory animals, but this is usually after "mega-dosing" animals already predisposed to disease. No scientific study has demonstrated health risks of saccharin to humans at normal doses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined in 1981 that aspartame is safe to use in foods. It has also ruled that all products containing aspartame must include a warning to phenylketonurics that the sweetener contains phenylalanine (as do many foods).

Cyclamate controversy

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of cyclamate in 1970 after lab tests indicated that large amounts of cyclamates caused bladder cancer in rats (a disease which rats are particularly susceptible to, also caused by drinking sugar water). The findings of these studies have been challenged and some companies are petitioning to have cyclamates reapproved. Cyclamates are still used as sweeteners in many parts of the world. They are used with official approval in over 55 countries.

Saccharin controversy

There have been worries about the safety of saccharin since its introduction. United States President Theodore Roosevelt, on the safety of saccharin, said "Anyone who thinks saccharin is dangerous is an idiot". Fear about saccharin increased when a 1960 study showed that high levels of saccharin may cause bladder cancer in lab rats. In 1977, Canada banned saccharin due to results from animal research. The FDA in the United States considered banning saccharin in 1977, but after a moratorium was placed on the ban to study the safety of saccharin, the ban was withdrawn in 1991. Likewise, in 2000, the United States repealed a law requiring saccharin products to carry health warning labels.

Aspartame controversy

Aspartame was discovered in 1965 by James M. Schlatter at the G.D. Searle company (later purchased by Monsanto). Initial safety testing suggested that aspartame caused brain tumors in rats; as a result, the additive was held up in the United States for many years in the Food and Drug Administration's approval process. In 1980, the FDA convened a Public Board of Inquiry (PBOI) consisting of independent advisors charged with examining the purported relationship between aspartame and brain cancer. The PBOI concluded that aspartame did not cause brain damage, but recommended against approving aspartame at that time, citing unanswered questions about cancer in laboratory rats. In 1981, FDA Commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes, newly appointed by President Ronald Reagan, approved aspartame as a food additive, citing data from a Japanese study that had not been available to the members of the PBOI. [1] (http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/ANSWERS/ANS00772.html)

Since the FDA approved aspartame for consumption, some researchers have suggested that a rise in brain tumor rates in the United States may be at least partially related to the increasing availability and consumption of aspartame. [2] (http://www.healthsentinel.com/Briefs/Aspartame.htm), [3] (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=8939194&dopt=Abstract) However, more recent research has failed to find any link between aspartame and cancer or other health problems. [4] (http://ntp-server.niehs.nih.gov/Main_Pages/Transgen/AspartameQA.html), [5] (http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/tt/1998/sep16/aspartame.html)

One of the many hypotheses about the causes of Gulf war syndrome is that soldiers, after drinking gallons of aspartame containing soft drinks in the extreme heat, accumulated toxic doses of methanol, formaldehyde, diketopiperazine and formic acid from the breakdown of the sweetener into its component molecules. However, the symptoms do not greatly resemble those of classic methanol poisoning, and the body, in its normal metabolism, produces methanol in quantities comparable or greater than would be ingested via aspartame, so this theory does not have wide support.

Sucralose controversy

The FDA approved sucralose in 1998. [6] (http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/ANSWERS/ANS00859.html)

The first significant rumblings were in 2000, when Dr. Joseph Mercola wrote an article entitled "The Secret Dangers of Splenda (Sucralose), an Artificial Sweetener". Since then, many others have chimed in. [7] (http://www.mercola.com/2000/dec/3/sucralose_dangers.htm)

In December of 2004, five separate false advertising lawsuits were filed against chemical sweetener manufacturer Johnson & Johnson/McNeil for claims made about its artificial sweetener Splenda. [8] (http://www.truthaboutsplenda.com/news/01-27-05-lawsuit.html)

On January 10, 2005, the “Truth About Splenda” website was created by consumers and sugar cane/beet farmers. [9] (http://www.truthaboutsplenda.com)

List of sugar substitutes

The three primary compounds used as sugar substitutes in the United States are saccharin (e.g. Sweet'N Low), aspartame (e.g. Equal, NutraSweet) and sucralose (e.g. Splenda). In many other countries cyclamate is used extensively.

Natural sugar substitutes

  1. Brazzein — Protein, 2,000x sweetness of sucrose (by weight), Exxx
  2. Curculin — Protein, 550x sweetness (by weight), Exxx
  3. Erythritol — 0.7x sweetness (by weight), 14x sweetness of sucrose (by food energy), 0.05x energy density of sucrose
  4. Glycyrrhizin — 50x sweetness (by weight)
  5. Glycerol — 0.6x sweetness (by weight), 0.55x sweetness (by food energy), 1.075x energy density, E422
  6. Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates — 0.4x–0.9x sweetness (by weight), 0.5x–1.2x sweetness (by food energy), 0.75x energy density
  7. Isomalt — 0.45x–0.65x sweetness (by weight), 0.9x–1.3x sweetness (by food energy), 0.5x energy density, E953
  8. Lactitol — 0.4x sweetness (by weight), 0.8x sweetness (by food energy), 0.5x energy density, E966
  9. Mabinlin — Protein, 100x sweetness (by weight), Exxx
  10. Maltitol — 0.9x sweetness (by weight), 1.7x sweetness (by food energy), 0.525x energy density, E965
  11. Mannitol — 0.5x sweetness (by weight), 1.2x sweetness (by food energy), 0.4x energy density, E421
  12. Miraculin — Protein, nx sweetness (by weight), Exxx
  13. Monellin — Protein, 3,000x sweetness (by weight), Exxx
  14. Pentadin — Protein, 500x sweetness (by weight), Exxx
  15. Sorbitol — 0.6x sweetness (by weight), 0.9x sweetness (by food energy), 0.65x energy density, E420
  16. Stevia — 250x sweetness (by weight)
  17. Tagatose — 0.92x sweetness (by weight), 2.4x sweetness (by food energy), 0.38x energy density
  18. Thaumatin — Protein, — 2,000x sweetness (by weight), E957
  19. Xylitol — 1.0x sweetness (by weight), 1.7x sweetness (by food energy), 0.6x energy density, E967

Artificial sugar substitutes

Note that because many of these have little or no food energy, comparison of sweetness based on energy content is not meaningful.

  1. Acesulfame potassium — 200x sweetness (by weight), Nutrinova, E950, FDA Approved 2003
  2. Alitame — 2,000x sweetness (by weight), Pfizer, Pending FDA Approval
  3. Aspartame — 160-200x sweetness (by weight), NutraSweet, E951, FDA Approved 1981
  4. Cyclamate — 30x sweetness (by weight), Abbott, E952, FDA Banned 1969, pending re-approval
  5. Dulcin — 250x sweetness (by weight), FDA Banned 1950
  6. Neohesperidine dihydrochalcone — 1,500x sweetness (by weight), E959
  7. Neotame — 8,000x sweetness (by weight), NutraSweet, FDA Approved 2002
  8. P-4000 — 4,000x sweetness (by weight), FDA Banned 1950
  9. Saccharin — 300x sweetness (by weight), E954, FDA Approved 1958
  10. Sucralose — 600x sweetness (by weight), Tate & Lyle, FDA Approved 1999
  11. Sugar of Lead — ?? sweetness (by weight), FDA Banned

External links

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