Health and Beauty

Definition, benefits and health effects

Sweeteners, also known as sugar substitutes or fake sugars, are receiving increasing attention due to their ability to replace traditional sugar in our diet. But what are its real effects on health?

In this article I suggest we take a look at the definition of sweeteners, their benefits, and their potential effects on our health. We will address this topic critically and carefully, relying on reliable sources of information and answering the most frequently asked questions.

The role of sweeteners in current food trends

In a context of increasing awareness of the health consequences of sugar, sweeteners are increasingly popular with consumers and food manufacturers.

In fact, these sugar substitutes make it possible to meet the expectations of consumers looking for sweet flavors while reducing calorie intake and impact on blood sugar levels. This trend is reflected in the emergence of new “sugar-free” or “low-sugar” products on supermarket shelves, as well as the rise of low-carb diets, such as the ketogenic diet.

Therefore, sweeteners play a major role in changing our eating habits and creating healthy options to satisfy our craving for sweets without compromising our well-being.

What is a sweetener?

A sweetener is a substance that adds a sweet taste to food or drink, without adding as many calories as traditional sugar. There are two types of sweeteners: natural and artificial.

Natural sweeteners come from plants or other natural sources. Among the most popular are stevia, extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, and xylitol, a sugar alcohol found in some fruits and vegetables.

Artificial sweeteners, on the other hand, are chemical compounds that are manufactured in a laboratory. Among the most commonly used substances are aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, and cyclamate.

Stevia, this naturally sweet leafy plant, offers us a delicious, calorie-free alternative to traditional sugar.
Image rights © Adobe Stock

Main Sweeteners and Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI)

DessertADI (mg/kg body weight/day)Maximum dose
Recommended daily
Desalination power
Aspartame40150 times
Sucralose5600 times
Saccharin5300 times
Cyclamate7 (Subject to re-evaluation by the Financial Regulatory Authority)50 times
Stevia (steviol glycosides)4 for pure steviolVaries depending on products containing stevia200 to 350 times
Acesulfame-K9200 times
xylitolAJA is not established50 g1 time
ErythritolAJA is not established1 g/kg body weight/day0.7 times
MaltitolAJA is not established50 g0.9 to 1.1 times
SorbitolAJA is not established50 g0.6 times
IsomaltAJA is not established50 g0.5 to 0.8 times
LactitolAJA is not established50 g0.3 to 0.4 times
MannitolAJA is not established50 g0.7 times
ThaumatinAJA is not established1500 to 2000 times
neotamAJA is not established7000 to 13000 times
featureAJA is not established20,000 to 37,000 times
Monk Fruit (Luo Han Guo)AJA is not established300 times
Allulose (D-bisicose)AJA is not established0.7 times
TagatosAJA is not established0.9 times
TrehaloseAJA is not established0.4 times
All information provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.

Sweeteners and their benefits

Sweeteners have many benefits in our diet. First, they help reduce sugar intake, which may be beneficial for people with diabetes or looking to lose weight. In fact, sweeteners generally have a greater sweetening power than sugar, which means that a small amount is enough to get the same sweet taste. Thus, it helps reduce overall calories from foods and drinks.

For people with diabetes, sweeteners can be an attractive alternative to sugar because they have less impact on blood sugar levels. However, it is important to consult a doctor or nutritionist before incorporating sweeteners into your diet, because some can still affect blood sugar levels.

Finally, sweeteners can be used to facilitate weight loss, by replacing sugar in the diet. By reducing your calorie intake, you can help create a calorie deficit, which is essential for weight loss. However, it is important to stress that sweeteners are not a miracle solution and should be combined with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

Effects of sweeteners on health

Despite their benefits, sweeteners have also sparked controversy over their potential health effects. Many studies have been conducted to evaluate the risks associated with the consumption of sweeteners, but results are often contradictory and opinions differ.

Some research suggests that consuming artificial sweeteners can upset the balance of gut flora, leading to digestive problems and an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Other studies have found a relationship between sweetener consumption and metabolic disorders, such as insulin resistance.

However, public health agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Agency for Food Safety, Environmental and Occupational Health (ANSES), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider that sweeteners, when consumed in moderation, have a negative effect. It does not pose a major health risk. However, it is recommended to respect the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) specified for each sweetener.

It's also important to note that sweeteners are not a magic solution for weight loss or diabetes control. It must be combined with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle to get lasting results.

Your frequently asked questions

Are sweeteners safe for children?

Sweeteners and sugar substitutes are generally considered safe for children when consumed within the limits set by health authorities. However, excessive consumption can lead to negative effects. Some sweeteners, such as aspartame, are not recommended for people with phenylketonuria. It is better to promote a balanced diet limited in added sugars than to use sweeteners systematically.

Can pregnant women eat sweeteners?

Pregnant women can generally consume sweeteners, but in moderation. Some sweeteners, such as aspartame and acesulfame-K, are considered safe during pregnancy according to health authorities. However, it is recommended to avoid saccharin because it can cross the placenta(1). Stevia consumption should be limited, as there is insufficient data on its safety during pregnancy. It is important to prefer naturally sweet foods and maintain a balanced diet. Consult your doctor for recommendations specific to your condition.

What is the difference between natural and artificial sweeteners?

Natural sweeteners come from plants or other natural sources, such as stevia and xylitol. Artificial sweeteners, on the other hand, are chemical compounds that are manufactured in a laboratory, such as aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, and cyclamate.

Can you use sweeteners to lose weight?

Sweeteners can aid weight loss by reducing overall calories from foods and drinks. However, it is not a miracle solution and should be combined with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle to get lasting results. It is also important to remember that sweeteners do not constitute a license to consume diet foods and beverages at will. The best thing is to learn to appreciate the natural taste of foods and gradually reduce sugar consumption.

Can sweeteners cause side effects?

Some sweeteners, especially polyols (such as xylitol and sorbitol), can cause digestive side effects such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea, especially when consumed in large amounts. People who are sensitive or intolerant to certain sweeteners may also experience headaches, migraines, or allergic reactions.

Conclusion

Sweeteners can be an interesting tool to reduce sugar consumption and promote better weight and blood sugar management. However, it is not a miracle solution and must be consumed in moderation, taking into account the recommendations of competent health organizations. To make informed choices about sweeteners, it is essential to educate yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of each type of sweetener and, if necessary, consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Definition, benefits and health effects

Back to top button