By- Panchali Moitra
A sweetener is a food additive which helps in duplicating the effect of sugar or sweet taste in the foods where they are added. Broadly, the sweeteners may be nutritive (the ones which provide the same or fewer calories than sugar, such as honey; sorbitol, mannitol, etc) or non-nutritive(which provide nominal calories) sweeteners. The artificial sweeteners or non-nutritive sweeteners may also be termed as high intensity sweeteners as even when they are used in minutes quantities, they can provide the same sweetness as table sugar. The artificial sweeteners can be saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, stevioside, cyclamate or alitame and neotame.
- Saccharin- It is one of the oldest artificial sweetener in the Indian market. With a bitter, metallic aftertaste and stability only at low temperatures, saccharin happens to be 300 times more sweet than sugar. However, its popularity has been marred with controversaries, linking it to bladder cancer . Recent studies have however shown that it is only the heavy saccharin users (six or more servings of saccharin or two or more 8-ounce servings of diet drink daily) who may have “some evidence of an increased risk of bladder cancer.
- Cyclamate was also caught up along with saccharin in the causation of bladder cancer and is presently banned in India
- Aspartame- Locally available as Equal tablets and sachets, aspartame is derived from a combination of two amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Aspartame is 180 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, so only a little amount is necessary to sweeten a food or beverage. Repeated use of aspartame may lead to migraine headaches, seizures, memory loss and dizziness. The research is in the process to both criticize and favor the claims made. Being unstable at high temperatures, it is added in the end-cycle of cooking. Asparatame should be avoided by growing children, phenylketonuric children and pregnant women with hyper phenylalaninemia.
- Neotame and alitame are similar to aspartame but are much more stable and sweeter. It has been approved by FDA to be used in beverages, bakery foods and cereals.
- Stevia- It is a naturally occurring, sweet herbal plant native to South America with constituents called steviosides. Stevia has been approved by FDA as a diet supplement and can be used for high temperature cooking like frying and baking. It is marketed in India as Stugar.
- Sucralose- Sucralose is an extremely versatile high intensity sweetener which gets excreted unchanged in the body. It is simply a modification of the sucrose molecule ie. a chlorinated version known as tri chloro galacto sucrose and retains its sweetness over wide range of temperatures. Studies have shown that sucralose does not cause any rise in blood glucose levels and is available in the market under brand names like Splenda , Zero and Sugarite.
If you’re trying to cut down on calories and lose weight, avoiding sugar is one of the best ways to reduce your daily calorie intake. The non-nutritive sweeteners play a crucial role in weight management strategies by reducing the daily calorie intake without eliminating the sweet foods. Without their help, it would perhaps be a Herculean task to cut down 500 calories in a weight reduction diet. A reduction of direct sugar i.e. about 100 calories from the diet by replacing it with an artificial sweetener is one-fourth the battle won and that too quite easily. Hence, it is recommended that most dieters may use artificial sweeteners and artificially sweetened foods as a way to cut the sugar calories and possibly improve their chances of adherence to any weight loss plan and inch closer to their target body weight.