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Artificial Sweeteners Nutritive and Non-Nutritive
Types and Effects of Saccharin, Aspartame, Sucralose on Sugar Intake and Weight Loss
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Health & Weight Loss Effects of Using Sweeteners Instead of Sugar

Artificial Sweeteners, Health and Weight Control

Artificial sweeteners are sugar-substitutes. There are 2 kinds of sweeteners: nutritive and non-nutritive. Nutritive sweeteners provide some calories, non-nutritive sweeteners typically provide zero calories.

Artificial Sweeteners - the Weight Loss Theory

Sugar contains about 16 calories per teaspoon (4 calories per gram). The average American diet contains about 24 teaspoons of sugar per day, or about 384 calories worth.

Theoretically, by substituting sweeteners for sugar, we save up to 384 calories per day, or 140,000 calories per year - the equivalent of 40 pounds of body weight. (3500 calories = 1 pound of body weight).

Artificial Sweeteners - Weight Loss Reality

  • Weight loss diet studies show no significant difference in the weight loss success of dieters who use artificial sweeteners.
  • This is partly due to the fact that most dietary sugar is hidden inside food products, like soft drinks, confectionary, cakes and cookies, rather than eaten as teaspoons of sugar.
  • Studies also show that dieters using sweeteners in coffee and tea lose no more weight than dieters who use a small amount of sugar. Why this zero-calorie substitution does not lead to greater weight loss is unclear.
  • Artificial sweeteners are still sweet - some non-nutritive sweeteners are 200-700 times sweeter than sugar. Thus eating these sugar substitutes does not reduce a sweet-tooth - in fact, it may do the opposite. If so, sweeteners may lead to greater consumption of sweet foods which may explain why weight loss is not significant.

Artificial Sweeteners - US Dietary Guidelines

The US Food Guide Pyramid encourages consumers to have the smallest proportion of their energy derived from fats, oils, and sugars. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans urge consumers to choose a diet moderate in these sources of energy because excessive intake may provide the body with unnecessary energy and few nutrients. However, persons can include sugars in their diets and still consume a healthful diet.

Artificial Sweeteners - American Dietetic Association Position

It is the position of The American Dietetic Association that consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners when consumed in moderation and within the context of a diet consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. (www.eatright.org)

Artificial Sweeteners - Different Types

Nutititive Sweeteners

As stated above, the terms "nutritive" and "nonnutritive" denote a difference in the amount of energy provided by sweeteners. Nutritive sweeteners include sugar sweeteners (eg, refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose, glucose, dextrose, corn sweeteners, honey, lactose, maltose, various syrups, invert sugars, concentrated fruit juice) and reduced-energy polyols or sugar alcohols (eg, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates).The claim that nutritive sweeteners have caused an increase in chronic disease (eg, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dental caries, behavioral disorders) is not substantiated

Sugar Sweeteners
Most sugar sweeteners used as replacements for sugar contain about the same calories as sugar. So although there may be some differences in the way we metabolize sugar and nutitive sweeteners like sucrose and fructose, there's no obvious weight loss benefit.

Polyols/Sugar Alcohols
Polyols offer less energy; and offer potential health benefits (eg, reduced glycemic response and reduced dental caries risk). The polyols sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol are found in plant products such as fruits and berries. All polyols are absorbed slowly and incompletely from the intestine, therefore, an excessive load (e.g. greater than 50 g sorbitol per day, greater than 20 g mannitol per day) may cause diarrhea. If polyols were completely absorbed, then like sugar they would provide the usual 4 calories per gram. The FDA allows these nutritive sweeteners to be labeled as having fewer calories per gram than other nutritive sweeteners.

Non-Nutritive Sweeteners

Non-nutritive artificial sweeteners are intensely sweet - between 200-700 times sweeter than sugar. They add sweetness to foods for people (like diabetics) who need to limit their intake of sugar. They contain little or no calories or glycemic response (impact on blood sugar levels). The United States leads the world in consumption of high-intensity sweeteners, consuming approximately 50% of the world demand. Nonnutritive sweeteners may assist in weight management, control of blood glucose, and prevention of dental caries. But most non-nutritive sweeteners come with health warnings, not least because of the lack of clinical tests on their long-term use.

FDA has approved 4 nonnutritive sweeteners and regulates them as food additives: saccharin (on an interim basis pending additional study), aspartame, acesulfame potassium (or acesulfame-K), and sucralose.

Artificial Sweeteners - Are They Safe?

Health concerns have focused on the non-nutritive sweeteners, especially Saccharin (Sweet 'N Low) and Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal). Truth is, no one knows for certain whether calorie-free sugar replacements are safe. On the other hand, the health risks of obesity and diabetes are well documented. Furthermore, non-nutritive sweeteners are so embedded in the food industry, that it is not easy to ban them without clear evidence of health problems.

Artificial Sweeteners - Do They Lead to Weight Loss?

Theoretically, a calorie-saving is a calorie-saving. So by substituting a zero-calorie sweetener for sugar, you will achieve a calorie saving which should help you to lose weight. However, as stated above, practical tests appear to show that dieters using sugar-replacements do not achieve significantly greater weight loss than dieters who use small amounts of sugar. The reasons for this are not clear.

Sources include:
US Dept of Agriculture.
US DHHS.
American Dietetic Association.
UK National Health Service.


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