Non-caloric sweeteners, sugar substitutes

Food additives Non-caloric sweeteners.

  • Ranking of sweetest additives
  • The additives with the highest sweetness
  • List of additives sweeter than sucrose

90% of sugars are hidden in all kinds of foods even those where they are not expected to have sugar such as soups, bread, cold cuts, frozen products.

Currently the intake of sugar is exceeded by most people and especially children who at a young age have already exceeded the amount that their grandparents could eat in their entire lives.

Sugar is linked to obesity and overweight.

Origin of world sugar production:

  • Extracted from beetroot 30%
  • Extracted from cane 70%
  • World production 2019/2020 181 million tons.

Types of sugar:

  • Glucose: it is the common sugar from which energy is obtained, glucose enters directly into the bloodstream, the increase in blood glucose causes the pancreas to generate insulin, an excess of blood sugar is harmful, the excess glucose is converted into fat giving rise to overweight.
  • Fructose: it is found in fruit and vegetables, also in industrial and processed products, it is metabolized directly in the liver and for its digestion insulin from the pancreas is not necessary.
  • Sucrose: Sucrose is extracted as a derivative of sugar cane or beets, it is also contained in fruits and vegetables.
  • Lactose: It is the sugar found in milk.
Sugarcane originated in New Guinea and from there it passed to India, and later reached China and the Middle East. The Indians were the first to taste its sweet taste. There are writings from the year 4500 BC that speak of its use. Later in 510 BC, its use expanded to Persia. In the fourth century BC it arrives in Europe by the hand of Alexander the Great through Asia. The Greeks called it 'salt of India'.

The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends a maximum daily intake of 50gr of sugars, which is equivalent to ingesting 18kg of sugar per year,but the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reveals that 24kg per year is actually consumed on average..

This concern about overconsupply in society has made the food industry take advantage of a new business niche with substitutes for white sugar, non-caloric sweeteners.

Misleading advertising on food labels

  • Light labeling: Products labeled as light are not healthy at all,foods are removed from fat so that it fattens less, but also reduce the flavor, so they replace it with additions such as salt, sugars, sweeteners and flavor enhancers or all at once.
  • 0% sugars: That it does not carry sugar does not mean that it is healthier, to compensate for the sugar preservative they add refined processed flours, low quality oils such as palm and large amounts of sweeteners.
  • No added sugars: Most of these products are removed from white sugar, but to get the sweet taste of the product, they replace it with synthetic sweeteners in most cases, very toxic to health.

Why use non-caloric sweeteners?

  • ENCs allow people suffering from obesity, diabetes, to consume beverages and other sweet-tasting foods without risk of absorbing calories.

Artificial NCSs activate sweet taste receptors but much less concentrated than sugar, very little is needed so calories are minimal.

The danger is that people with weight problems can consume more processed and sweetened foods for the simple fact of thinking that they do not gain weight and increase their weight.

  • The advantage of these substitutes is that they do not damage both teeth and sugar since they do not interact with the bacteria that damage tooth enamel.
  • Thanks to the use of NCS, diabetics can have access to many processed foods, since they do not raise the level of glucose in the blood.
  • Patients with reactive hypoglycemia, a disease that produces excess insulin being a risk to their health, just as diabetics also benefit from sweeteners that do not increase the level of glucose in the blood.
  • Some of these substitutes come naturally from fruits or plants and become a healthy alternative to sucrose if you don't fall into the mistake of consuming excessively.

Types of sweeteners

Sweeteners are divided into:

Intensive, low in calories

Very sweet sweeteners
Acesulfame-K (E950)
Adantame (E969)
Aspartame (E951)
Cyclamate (E952)
Neohesperidin DC (E)959)
Neotame, neotamus (E961)
Saccharin (E954)
Steviol glycosides, stevia, stevia (E960)
Sucralose, sucralose (E955)
Thaumatin, thaumatin (957)

Extensive or polyols

Uncootty sweeteners
Erythritol (E968)
Isomalta (E953)
Lactitol (E966)
Maltitol (E421)
Sorbitol (E420)
Xylitol (E967)

What are low calorie sweeteners?

The non-caloric sweetener is an alternative in the diet of people with diabetes, they can enjoy the sweet taste without increasing blood glucose levels.

Non-caloric sweetener is a food sweetener that has virtually no energy value.

Intensive sweeteners are between 50 and 37000 times sweeter than sugar (sucrose)

Therefore very small amounts are needed to sweeten foods and beverages, however today almost all foods contain these sweeteners and therefore it is very easy in the sum of the products consumed daily to exceed the Acceptable Daily Intake.

The ADI is the tool that ensures the safe use of food additives.

What are extensive sweeteners or polyols?

They are obtained from some fruits and vegetables, but also industrially, they are slightly less sweet than sugar.

Thanks to the lack of elevation of blood glucose, they offer an alternative for diabetics, although the daily intake of 20 gr/kg should not be exceeded to avoid consequences such as diarrhea, cramps or flatulence.

That is why the products to which these additives are added in their labeling should be warned that their excessive use could have a laxative effect.

Apart from being used to sweeten it is also used as an emulsifier, stabilizer, wetting agent, thickener or texture agent.

What does E mean in food additives?

All food additives used in food have an E (European) number which means they have been approved and are allowed in the European Union, some of these additives are banned in other countries.

The list and number of E numbers are classified into different categories, for example the numbers ranging from E100 to E181 are additives, those ranging from E300 to E340 are antioxidants, flavor enhancers range from E600 to E650 and brighteners from E900 to E910.

The European regulation on the use of E numbers establishes to which foods the different food additives can be added and maximum allowed content.

Food additives authorised in the EU have been thoroughly tested by EFSA, however, several of them are under the spotlight when considering that they affect health such as Aspartame.

Are sweeteners dangerous?

Are sugar substitutes dangerous?

According to a professor at the Israeli University named Ariel Kushmaro, he showed that the consumption of artificial sweeteners counteracts intestinal function, since they invade the bacteria of the intestines responsible for ensuring good regulation in the absorption of nutrients from digestion.

There are also studies by researcher at Nanynang University of Technology in Singapore named Ben Gurion who examined 10 dietary supplements containing sweetener to show they are bad for the intestines and published it in the journal Molecules..

Although many additives pass controls and tests so that they can be used, it is often impossible to discover all the problems that arise when consuming them and only when secondary results are generated from mild to severe as developing a cancer, the use of the additive is reviewed.

In 1950 the first sugar substitutes were marketed.

Scientific research warned that the use of sweeteners can lead to secondary outcomes such as bloating, headache, abdominal pain and even depressive feelings.

Animal tests show that those who are fed products made with artificial sweeteners gain weight, because the sweet taste does not increase blood glucose, causing hypoglycemia feeling the need to eat more.

The results of a randomized trial that was conducted in 2017 indicated that consuming artificial sweeteners increases body weight, metabolic syndrome may appear or generate type 2 diabetes..

Aspartame E951 and Sucralose E955 are the most toxic sugar substitutes and in turn the most used by the food industry.

Absorption and metabolism of sweeteners without calories.

Additives are analyzed separately, but it is common for foods or beverages to contain several types of additives, or for several foods to be consumed with multiple additives.

Additives react differently in groups and separately, which can have unforeseen side effects.

Non-caloric sweetening ENCs cannot all be treated equally as if they were the same.

Each is metabolized, absorbed and excreted from the body differently.

Absorption and metabolism of the most commonly used sweeteners:

  • Saccharin - is absorbed by our body as an intact molecule, it is not metabolized, it is excreted in urine and feces.
  • Acesulfame-k: it is absorbed as an intact molecule, it is not metabolized. Authorized in more than 90 countries.
  • Sucralose - 85% is not absorbed, only 15% is absorbed as an intact molecule, it is not metabolized, it is excreted in feces.
  • Steviol glycosides or Stevia - is absorbed and metabolized by bacteria in the intestine, excreted in the urine.
  • Aspartame: it is absorbed in the form of phenylalanine 50%, methanol 10% and aspartame 40%, it is metabolized in the same way that we digest fruits and vegetables, it is excreted in the urine. Authorized in more than 110 countries.

In all these cases the elimination of waste from our body is fast.

Sweeteners during pregnancy and lactation.

Considerations related to pregnancy and lactation:

Saccharin and cyclamate can cross the placenta and transfer to human fetal tissues.

The use of saccharin in preconception and gestation periods is not recommended.

Ranking of ENC according to its sweetening power

Food additive Sweetening power Calories GOING Discovery Possible side effects Forbidden
The figures are approximate, they vary according to the source.
E-966 Lactitol 0.3 2 20gr/kg Intestinal cramps and diarrhea
E-953 Isomalt 0.4 2 45gr/kg 1960 Severe diarrhea
E-421 Mannitol 0.5 1.6 30gr/kg
E-420 Sorbitol 0.6 2.6 40gr/kg 1872 Laxative effect
E-968 Erythritol 0.65 0.2 50gr/kg 1848 Laxative effect
E-965 Maltitol 0.9 2.4 40gr/kg Diarrhea, gas, and intestinal cramps
E-967 Xylitol 1 2.4 20gr/kg 1940 Laxative effect
Common sugar 1 4 4500 BC Pancreatic cancer, chronic renal failure, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, hepatic steatosis, chories, cardiovascular problems, depression, addiction, schizophrenia, dementia
E-952 Cyclamate 50 0 7mg/kg 1937 Carcinogenic USA, Japan, England, Chile, Venezuela and Mexico
E-636 Maltol 70 1mg/kg Increases the percentage of aluminum, iron and gallium in the blood, destruction of red blood cells EU
E-950 Acesulfame-K 200 0 9mg/kg 1967 Carcinogenic, neurotoxic, insulin secretion, hyperglycemia
E-951 Aspartame 200 4 50mg/kg 1965 Carcinogenic
E-954 Saccharin 300 0 5mg/kg 1879 Allergies, carcinogenic Banned in Cancadá until 2014
E-960 Stevia Extract 300 0 4mg/kg 1931 Laxative with long-term negative effects Banned in USA 1990-2008
E-637 Ethylmaltol 350 1mg/kg Increases the percentage of aluminum, iron and gallium in the blood EU
E-962 Aspartame and acesulfame salt 350
E-955 Sucralose 600 0 15mg/kg 1990 Liver damage, toxic to the kidneys and DNA damage in laboratory animals
E-959 Neohesperidin DC 1800 0 Nausea and headache
E-956 Alitamo 2000 1980 EU
E-957 Thaumatin 2500 4 2mg/kg 1979 Laxative effect
E-961 Neotame 13000 2mg/kg Carcinogenic
E-969 Advantame 37000 5mg/kg 2008 Laxative effect and diarrhea

Natural sugar substitutes

Erythritol E968
Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
Lactitol E966
Lo Han Guo
Maltitol E965
Mannitol E421
Sorbitol E420
Stevia, stevia E960
Taumatin E957
Xylitol E967

Artificial sugar substitutes

Acesulfame K E950
Advantame E969
Aspartame E951
Cyclamate E952banned by the FDA in 1969, pending re-approval
Dulcin: banned by the FDA in 1951
Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
Isomalt E953
Neohesperidin dihydrocalcone Neohesperidin DC E959
Neotame, neotamo E961
P-4000: Banned by the FDA in 1950
Saccharin, saccharin E954
Aspartame-acesulfame salt E962
Sucralose, sucralose E955


  • Sweetening power: Number of times sweeter than sugar.
  • E-9xx: The letter "E" stands for Additive approved by a Scientific Committee of the European Union.
  • EU: European Union.
  • EFSA: European Food Safety Agency.
  • ENC: Non-Caloric sweetener, non-caloric.
  • FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  • FDA:U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • ADI: Acceptable Daily Intake.
  • JECFA: International Committee of Joint Experts on Food Additives.
  • NOAEL: Maximum amount that can be added without adverse effects.
  • WHO: World Health Organization.
  • SCF: EU Scientific Committee for Food.

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