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Sweeteners: Sweet Substitutes for a Healthier Choice

Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2023-07-31      Origin: Site

Sweeteners, a common type of food additive, are widely used in the modern food industry to enhance the sweetness of products without the need for traditional sugars. Not only do they help reduce calorie and sugar content in foods, but they also cater to consumers' preference for sweetness. However, due to the variations in sweetness, taste, and safety among different sweeteners, understanding the characteristics of each is essential in making informed choices.

1. Early Sweeteners: Saccharin and Cyclamate

Saccharin, one of the earliest sweeteners discovered in 1878, has a sweetness approximately 450 times that of sucrose (table sugar). However, it comes with a bitter aftertaste and is considered less safe for consumption. Its application is restricted, and it has been gradually replaced by other sweeteners in the market.


Cyclamate, another early sweetener, was discovered in 1937. Its sweetness is about 40 to 50 times that of sucrose. While it

 lacks an ideal aftertaste, concerns about its safety arose in 1969 when it was linked to bladder cancer in rats. As a result, the use of cyclamate was banned in the United States and Japan. However, subsequent research did not confirm its carcinogenicity, but caution is still advised when using it.


2. Mainstream Sweeteners: Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium, and Neotame

Aspartame is a mainstream sweetener approved for use in 1981. Its sweetness is approximately 200 times that of sucrose, and it has a pure taste.However, excessive intake of aspartame may increase the occurrence of migraines or prolong the duration of headaches.In July this year, aspartame was officially listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a substance that may cause cancer to the human body. Hence, it is recommended not to excessively consume aspartame for prolonged periods.


Acesulfame Potassium has a similar sweetness to aspartame, about 200 times that of sucrose. Although it has a metallic aftertaste, it is generally considered safe. Long-term overconsumption may, however, have adverse effects on the liver and nervous system.

Acesulfame Potassium

Neotame, a derivative of aspartame, has an extraordinary sweetness, approximately 6,000 to 10,000 times that of sucrose. Despite having a very mild bitter and acidic taste, it is considered safe for consumption and is suitable for various populations, including children, pregnant and lactating women, and diabetic patients.


3. New Generation Sweeteners: Advantame and Thaumatin

Advantame, a derivative of neotame, is the sweetest sweetener discovered to date, with a sweetness approximately 20,000 times that of sucrose. While it has a very faint bitter and acidic taste, it is considered safe for consumption, and no special considerations are required for phenylketonuria patients.


Thaumatin is a naturally occurring sweet protein extracted from the katemfe fruit in West Africa. First discovered in 1841, it was isolated as a sweetener in 1972 and named Thaumatin. Its sweetness is about 3,000 times that of sucrose. It has a pure taste and is generally considered safe. Although small amounts of intake are harmless, prolonged overconsumption should be avoided to prevent potential harm to the liver and nervous system.


How to Choose Safer Sweeteners?

  • Understanding Sweetener Characteristics: Be familiar with the sweetness, taste, and safety profile of each sweetener to make appropriate choices based on product requirements.

  • Opt for Natural Sources: Naturally derived sweeteners, such as stevia (rebaudioside) and xylitol, are generally considered safer options.

  • Moderate High-Intensity Sweeteners: While new-generation sweeteners have high sweetness levels, they should be used in moderation to avoid potential health risks from excessive consumption.

  • Consider Specific Population Restrictions: Some sweeteners may not be suitable for specific populations, such as pregnant women and individuals with phenylketonuria. Seek professional advice when selecting sweeteners for these groups.

  • Balance Diet: Sweeteners should not replace a balanced diet. A diversified and balanced diet remains crucial for overall health.

In conclusion, sweeteners, as food additives, offer various options for consumers. However, their usage should be done with caution, adhering to recommended dosages to ensure product safety and quality. For consumers, moderate consumption of sweeteners can satisfy taste preferences, but maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is essential for overall well-being.

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