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Sweeteners - sugar substitutes

From : Medline Plus, A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, Sweeteners - sugar substitutes

Sugar substitutes are a type of sweetener that is used in place of sugary sweeteners like sucrose or sugar alcohols. They are also known as non-nutritive sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, and noncaloric sweeteners. These alternatives provide sweetness to food and drinks without adding a significant amount of extra calories to the diet. Most sugar substitutes contain minimal to no calories, making them an excellent option for individuals looking to limit their sugar intake while still enjoying sweet-tasting foods and drinks.

One major advantage of using sugar substitutes is that they can help individuals who are trying to lose weight. By providing sweetness to food and drinks without significantly adding extra calories, sugar substitutes can help reduce overall caloric intake. People with diabetes may also benefit from the use of sugar substitutes because they can help control blood sugar levels. In addition, sugar substitutes are beneficial for dental health since they can help prevent tooth decay.

There are many different types of sugar substitutes available, including aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, stevia, acesulfame K, neotame, monk fruit, and advantame. Aspartame, which is 200 times sweeter than sucrose, is made up of two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid. It is best used in beverages rather than baking since it loses its sweetness when exposed to heat. Sucralose, 600 times sweeter than sucrose, is commonly used in many foods and drinks, chewing gum, frozen dairy desserts, baked goods, and gelatin. Saccharin is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sucrose and is often found in diet foods and drinks. However, it may have a bitter or metallic aftertaste in some liquids and isn't recommended for use in cooking or baking. Stevia, a non-nutritive sweetener made from the plant Stevia rebaudiana, is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. Acesulfame K is typically used in carbonated low-calorie beverages and is most similar to table sugar in taste and texture. Neotame can be used for baking or as a tabletop sweetener, while monk fruit is a plant-based extract of a round green melon that grows in southern China. Finally, advantame is 20,000 times sweeter than sugar, but it is rarely used.

Many people are concerned about the safety and health effects of sugar substitutes. Fortunately, numerous studies have been conducted on FDA-approved sugar substitutes, and they have been shown to be safe for use by the general population. The FDA regulates all sugar substitutes sold or used in prepared foods in the United States, setting an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for each sugar substitute. Most people consume far less than the ADI. Aspartame is not recommended for individuals with phenylketonuria (PKU) because their bodies cannot break down one of the amino acids used to make aspartame.

While FDA-approved sweeteners are considered safe to use in moderation, the American Medical Association recommends avoiding saccharin during pregnancy due to possible slow fetal clearance. However, there is little evidence to support the use of or avoidance of sugar substitutes during pregnancy.

In 2012, the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association published a report concluding that moderate use of sugar substitutes could help reduce caloric and carbohydrate intake. Further research is needed to determine if sugar substitute use leads to weight loss or lower heart disease risk, as some studies suggest that they may lead to an increase in weight.

Overall, sugar substitutes can be a useful tool for individuals looking to reduce their sugar intake while still enjoying sweet-tasting foods and drinks. As with any food or dietary supplement, it's important to use sugar substitutes in moderation and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

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