It can be difficult for the consumer to make sense of the variety of sugar substitutes available on the market today. To make a worthy choice, you need to know all the pros and cons of these products.
Many people looking to reduce the calorie content of their diet are looking at some form of sweetener as an alternative to sugar.
These days, sugar substitutes are present in many different drinks and foods. They are labeled “sugar-free” and “diet.” Sweeteners can be found in chewing gum, jellies, ice cream, sweets, yogurt.
What are sugar substitutes? Those, in a broad sense, are any sweeteners used instead of sucrose. Among them, artificial ones are just one of the varieties of sweeteners.
Below is a list of popular sweeteners and their classification:
Artificial sweeteners are neotame, sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, and acesulfame.
Sugar alcohols are xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, hydrogenated starch hydrolyzate, erythritol.
Newest sweeteners: tagatose, stevia extract, trehalose.
Natural sweeteners: agave juice, date sugar, honey, maple syrup.
Sugar alcohols and new sweeteners
Polyols, or sugar alcohols, are synthetic or natural carbohydrates. They have less sweetness and calories than sugar. They do not contain ethanol.
The new sweeteners are combinations of different types of sugar substitutes. New sweeteners such as stevia have a hard time fitting into one specific category due to the fact that they are made from heterogeneous ingredients.
Tagatose and trehalose are considered new sweeteners due to their chemical structure. Tagatose is low in carbohydrates and is a sweetener similar to naturally occurring fructose, but also made from lactose found in dairy products. Trehalose can be found in mushrooms and honey.
Use of sugar alcohols
They are rarely used when preparing food at home. They are found mainly in processed foods that add sweetness, volume and texture and prevent food from drying out.
This group consists of chemically synthesized sweeteners. They can also be obtained from plant materials. They are classified as intense sweeteners because they are much sweeter than regular sugar.
Use of artificial sweeteners
Their attractiveness is explained by the fact that they do not increase the caloric content of the diet. In addition, a person requires a negligible amount of sweetener compared to the amount of sugar needed to taste sweet.
Artificial sweeteners are often used for the production of drinks, pastries, candies, preserves, jams, and dairy products.
Artificial sweeteners are widely used in home cooking. Some of them can be used in baking. At the same time, traditional recipes need to be modified, because artificial sweeteners are used in much smaller volumes than sugar. Check the labels on sweeteners for dosage information. Some sweeteners tend to leave an unpleasant aftertaste.
Potential Health Benefits
A well-known advantage of synthetic sweeteners is that they do not lead to tooth decay and the development of pathogenic microflora in the oral cavity.
Another advertised aspect was their calorie-free. But research data suggests that sugar substitutes do not lead to the loss of extra pounds.
Many diabetics prefer sweeteners that are not considered carbohydrates and do not increase blood sugar.
Are sweeteners harmful to health?
The health effects of artificial sweeteners have been carefully studied over the past decades. Critics of artificial sweeteners claim they cause a range of health problems, including cancer. This is largely due to studies conducted in the 1970s that linked saccharin intake with the development of bladder cancer in laboratory rats. The result of the experiment was that saccharin was for some time marked with a warning sign that it could be dangerous to your health.
Currently, according to the National Cancer Institute and other US public health agencies, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use cause cancer or other serious health problems. Permitted for use are saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame and sucralose. Numerous studies confirm that artificial sweeteners are generally safe in limited amounts, even for pregnant women. It was decided to remove the warning label from saccharin.
New evidence, however, suggests that people who frequently eat sugar substitutes may be at increased risk of excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Daily consumption of “diet” drinks is associated with a 36% increase in the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and a 67% increase in type 2 diabetes.
Do you think that you can use sweeteners in moderation and are ready to give them up at any time if you want? Don’t be so sure. Animal studies show that artificial sweeteners can be addictive. Rats exposed to cocaine were then given the choice between intravenous cocaine and oral saccharin, most choosing saccharin.