What are low-calorie sweeteners?
Low-calorie sweeteners (also referred to as alternative sweeteners, non-nutritive sweeteners, intense sweeteners, or sugar substitutes) are used in foods and beverages instead of sugar (sucrose) to provide sweetness without adding a significant amount of calories.
Most people tend to think that all low-calorie sweeteners are artificial. But in fact, many are natural and come from a plant or fruit. There is a difference in taste when it comes to sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are single molecules and have a simple, clean sweet taste. Sweeteners from a natural source tend to have a complex taste because they are developed from more than one component of the plant.
Common examples of low-calorie sweeteners include:
• Acesulfame Potassium (Ace K)
• Monk Fruit
Low-calorie sweeteners have been around for over 100 years. Consumers can be reassured that sweeteners have been thoroughly tested and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration for safety. Low-calorie sweeteners are approved in many countries for use in foods and beverages.
How are Low-calorie sweeteners used?
Low-calorie sweeteners are widely used in processed foods, including baked goods, soft drinks, powdered drink mixes, candy, puddings, canned foods, jams and jellies, dairy products, and scores of other foods and beverages.
Low-calorie sweeteners are also popular for home use. Some can even be used in baking or cooking. It’s important to note that certain recipes may need modification because unlike sugar, low-calorie sweeteners don’t provide bulk or volume.
What are the benefits of low-calorie sweeteners?
Low-calorie sweeteners provide a taste similar to that of table sugar (sucrose), but are sweeter than sugar. Because of the high sweetening power, the main benefit of low-calorie sweeteners is that they reduce and/or eliminate the amount of sugar used in food or beverages, therefore reducing the amount of calories. In the midst of the current obesity epidemic, food and beverage companies and consumers are looking for simple ways to reduce calories, and using low-calorie sweeteners in some products is one way to manage caloric intake.
Low-calorie sweeteners also provide people with diabetes the opportunity to enjoy foods and beverages without sacrificing taste. Unlike sugar, low-calorie sweeteners are not carbohydrates and generally don't raise blood sugar levels. Low-calorie sweeteners also allow people to get their sweet fix while avoiding cavities.
• IFT Member, Ihab Bishay, PhD
Senior Director, Business Development/Application Innovation at Ajinomoto North America, Inc.
• Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/artificial-sweeteners/MY00073
• International Food Information Council: http://www.foodinsight.org/Content/5438/LCS%20Fact%20Sheet_rev%202.pdf