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Natural and artificial sweeteners


Sweeteners are natural or artificial substances, whose purpose is to provide sweet taste. The best known is the common sugar sweetener, also known as white sugar, refined sugar or sucrose. Since a high sugar intake may promote the development of problems such as tooth decay, obesity, impaired fat metabolism, diabetes, etc., increasingly opt more for other products as natural sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners.

Classification of sweeteners molecules

The molecules with sweetening power are numerous. They are called sweeteners. The classification used is usually the following: a) natural, b) nutritious, c) intense

 a) Natural Sweeteners

  • Monosaccharides: glucose, fructose, galactose.
  • Disaccharides sucrose, lactose, maltose.

 b) Nutritive sweeteners (derived from natural products)

  •  Products derived from starch glucose, glucose syrup, isoglucose.
  • Products derived from sucrose: invert sugar
  • Polyols or sugar alcohols: sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt, maltitol, lactitol, hydrogenated glucose syrup
  • Neosugar: fructooligosaccharides.

 c) Intense Sweeteners

  •  Chemical Sweeteners (synthetic sweeteners or artificial sweeteners): aspartame, acesulfame, saccharin, cyclamate, alitame.
  • Intense sweeteners of plant origin: thaumatin, stevioside, monellin, dihydrochalcone, glycyrrhizin.

Natural Sweeteners

Monosaccharides and disaccharides:

Disaccharides and monosaccharides are widely present in dairy products, fruits and vegetables.

Sweeteners can be used either singly or in in combinations where act synergistically to produce the desired sweetness level, with lower concentrations than separately. Thus, the flavor and satisfy the consumer products can have improved stability during its lifetime.

  • Fructose


Fructose is a form of sugar found in fruits and honey. It has the same chemical formula as glucose, but its structure is different, contributing only 4 calories per gram. Besides its sweetening power it is much greater than sugar so with less amount is sufficient to achieve the same sweetness.

One of the reasons why commercial fructose is not recommended, is that it metabolized in the liver, which favors, according to some studies, insulin resistance, increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It has also been associated with increased production of uric acid.

  • Stevia (natural from: natural or dried leaves)

It is the last of the known or discovered sweeteners. It produces in its leaves a natural sweetener, whose power is 300 times greater than regular sugar. It contains no calories and leaves can be used in their natural state, thanks to its high sweetening power and small quantities of the product are necessary.

Artificial sweeteners

Several artificial sweeteners were discovered by chance. The saccharin were found when working with tar derivatives and sucralose when trying to create an insecticide. It all started realizing their inventors, that the substances they experiencing, were an extremely sweet taste.

The tremendous increase in obesity worldwide, has caused the use of these synthetic sweeteners has soared in recent decades. A great success as a business, but has not been the solution to the problem of obesity.

The most commonly used sweeteners are saccharin (as Sweet 'N Low), sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame (as Nutrasweet).


Because of the controversy that was generated in the 70s by the relation of use of saccharin and cancer, there have been numerous studies that conclude that these sweeteners are safe. The FDA established an acceptable daily intake for each artificial sweetener. Each country has its own regulation, but these sweeteners are approved in most countries.

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes, but derived from a natural substance. Artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, so with a minimal amount a great sweetness is obtained.

  • Saccharin

It is the low-calorie sweetener oldest as it has over 100 years of use. In most commercial sweeteners, saccharin appears mixed with cyclamate, thus enhancing its sweetness.

Its current use has decreased greatly because of different opinions that speak about the relationship between consumption and the development of cancer. This theory originated in 1977, after learning about a study in which rats bladder cancer was observed. However, the doses used are impossible to achieve in humans with normal diet and all subsequent investigations have failed to show a direct association with the incidence of cancer in the population. Therefore, with the information currently available, saccharin has no consequence in life consuming it at doses of less than 20 pills daily. The disadvantage presented by for many people is that when taking it leaves a slightly bitter taste.

  • Aspartame

Is the mixture of two natural amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, which under normal conditions of acidity in the stomach, releasing both of amino acids separated.

Other sweetening consumed under the name of saccharin is aspartame, a white, odorless powder with 200 times the sweetening power sugar. Emphasizes and intensifies the flavors, especially citrus and various fruits. It is used mostly in soft drinks, non-carbonated beverages, desserts, bakery creams, tabletop sweeteners powder or tablets, chewing gum, frozen desserts, cereals, baked goods, powdered soft drinks and some sweets among others. It is unstable to heat, so it is not recommended for use in baked or cooked products.

It contains 4 Cal / g as sugar, but because it is 200 times sweeter than sugar, a minimum amount is needed to sweeten foods. Recent research shows that aspartame causes a greater increase in blood glucose and insulin that when ingested together with other carbohydrates that if sugar is used.

  • Acesulfame potassium

It is used in a considerable amount of food and soft drinks at the level of industrial production. It was approved as a flavor enhancer in 2003 and its maximum permitted dose is 15 mg / kg or 900 mg / day (the average content in many diet drinks contain about 10 mg / 100 ml).

It contains no calories, is stable to heat, and when combined with other low-calorie sweeteners have a synergistic effect that helps to improve the taste and stability of sweetness in foods and low calorie drinks.

  • Sucralose

It is the only low-calorie sweetener that is made from sugar, so it tastes like the original. It is made by altering the chemical structure of sugar, which prevents its from being metabolized, from passing through the body unaltered and is eliminated after consumption.

The result is a sweetener, approximately 600 times sweeter than sugar, which contains no calories and is very stable to a wide variety of processing conditions.

It's safe to health consuming artificial sweeteners?

Toxicity and carcinogenic potential, were questioned for a long time by some animal studies and observational studies that found a carcinogenic effect of saccharin in animals and in humans an association between aspartame and brain tumor or lymphoma. Most recent and comprehensive studies apparently deny these effects, especially in the recommended maximums. The current consensus is that the risk of being carcinogenic below the acceptable daily intake is very low.

Artificial sweeteners help in losing weight?

Several observational studies conclude that artificial sweeteners are associated with increased overweight, but these studies are limited and inconclusive could already be that obese people are more likely to use artificial sweeteners, and do not begin to gain weight by increasing its use.

In clinical trials demonstrating cause and effect, the results are inconsistent. For example, studies suggest that light drinks help you lose weight, but the results are not 100% solids, because there is conflict of interest by the company that sponsors these studies.

Anyway, if we consider the comparison with sugary drinks, one of the items with more tendency to produce obesity in the modern diet, it is reasonable to think that light drinks are preferable than sugared if we only consider weight loss.

What is the recommendation regarding consumption?

In order diets for weight loss work, it is very important to consider the energy regulation system of the organism, which responds to various factors, from the calorie reduction to the taste of food. We have the sweet taste associated with energy for millions of years. A recent study suggests that, these products interfere with the body energy homeostasis, and its frequent intake may induce metabolic damage.

There are several animal studies suggesting the same in humans appears that artificial sweeteners alter the brain's reward mechanism, to the sweet taste.

Observational studies found more metabolic problems with increased consumption of calorie-free drinks. The results seem to be even worse than sugary drinks.

As in many cases, depends on the quantities of sweeteners are consumed, which in excess can affect various health problems. Metabolism is not damaged by drinking a diet soda occasionally, or adding artificial sweeteners to coffee, the problem is that many people consume too much every day.

The ideal would recover the taste for the flavors of real food. When the sweet, extremely rare in our history, taste becomes the norm, everything else seems insipid by comparison. Fruit and a little honey should represent the main source of sweet taste in our daily diet.

Honey and xylitol are good choices, ahead of other polyols (mainly because they are less studied) and stevia, when consumed in moderation, because besides sweeten foods and beverages contain other benefits and low risk health.

The most advisable is, to minimize or eliminate the consumption of artificial sweeteners, not so much for its toxicological risk since it is very low, but recent evidence about its impact on the brain, metabolism and intestinal flora. Also including some highly processed sweeteners of natural origin, such as: agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup.

It is important to consider how each sweetener influences in different ways in the health of people, not only the toxicity but also health in general.