Artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes are a part of many regularly consumed products

Artificial sweeteners replace sugar in food, especially because of energy reasons. A food, which is sweetened with an artificial sweetener, has lower energy values than a food sweetened with a regular sugar. The artificial sweeteners can be also used because of dietary reasons (patients suffering from some illnesses cannot consume sucrose, i.e. sugar, and they use sugar substitutes for sweetening). Sugar substitute are sought for not only by people who want to lose some weight, but also by diabetics; half a million diabetics lives among us and their numbers are growing.

We can find a large range of artificial sweeteners on the market

In households, chemically prepared artificial sweeteners are used for sweetening of tea, coffee or cocoa; in the food industry, they are used especially in production of diabetic drinks, compotes, jams, snacks, chewing gums, milk products and some DIA foods; however, they are not suitable for cooking. Taste amplifiers on the basis of artificial sweeteners are most often present in salted snacks, chips or ready-made meals.

Sugar substitutes enable sweetening of foods without increasing their energy values. This happens because they are less caloric than sugar - sucrose.

Saccharin

Saccharin is the oldest sugar substitute. It was randomly discovered by Constantin Fahlberg in 1879. It is a non-caloric sweetener, approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar. Saccharin is very stable and thus suitable for sweetening of drinks, but also for cooked meals. It does not degrade in human body and thus it does not give away any energy. Use of saccharin increased mostly during the First World War and its popularity increased in the sixties, especially in people, who wanted to lose some weight. However, the health safety of the saccharin is being questioned.

In 1977, the saccharin has been prohibited in Canada and the prohibition has been suggested in USA as well on the basis of discovery that in tests on animals, a higher rate of urinary bladder cancer and possibility of effects of other carcinogenic substances has been discovered. In accordance with the studies performed on diabetics, it has been discovered that saccharin can increase the risk of occurrence of urinary bladder cancer, if more than 8 tablets are consumed per day; such occurrence has been proven only in men, not in women.

However, at that time, saccharin has been the only sugar substitute available in the USA and the proposal of its prohibition met a strong refusal by the public. A provision, which states that all foods which contain saccharine, must be labelled with a warning that saccharine might have carcinogenic effects, has been issued.

In the CR, saccharin can be used in limited amounts. Saccharin is not recommended for pregnant women and small children. People with problems with urinary bladder should avoid saccharine as well. In extraordinary cases, it can cause allergic reactions. Approved daily dose is 0 - 2.5 mg/kg of body weight.

Aspartame

Aspartame is a synthetic sweetener and an aroma enhancing substances. It has been discovered randomly during development of gastric ulcer medication; aspartame is not naturally present in nature, it is an artificial sweetener. Originally, it has been considered a great, almost perfect sugar substitute and it contributed to the development of low-caloric food industry. This substance is a hundred to two hundred times sweeter than sugar and it leaves a sweet taste in the mouth. If mixed with other substances, its sweetness is even bigger.

Use of this sweetener in foods has been authorized in many countries in the eighties, but after some time, the quality of aspartame carcinogenicity tests started to be questioned. The aspartame is connected to the brain cancer, which becomes more and more frequent in the western countries. People suffering from phenulketonuria should avoid aspartame completely. Some independent organizations recommend to avoid aspartame completely, because this sweetener can influence brain functions negatively, cause changes in one's behaviour, headaches, epileptic-like seizures and problems with menstruation in women.

You can find the aspartame as a sweetener in various drinks, it is used to enhance aroma of table-top sweeteners, mayonnaises, mustards, vitamin preparations, fruit and vegetables in sweet-and-sour brines, in some kinds of beer including non-alcoholic beer and also chewing gums. Products containing aspartame must be labelled: "contains a source of phenylanaline".

Sodium cyclamate

Cyclamate belongs to the cheapest synthetically produced non-caloric sweeteners. It is not present in the nature. It was randomly discovered during development of antipyretics at the University of Illinois in the USA. Before 2002, it was forbidden in the CR, but EU decrees changed this state; however, the cyclamate is still forbidden in the Great Britain and USA. It is mainly used in the pharmaceutical and food industry as an additive into non-alcoholic drinks. Many studies have been performed on the topic of harmfulness of cyclamates. In human body, cyclamates partially transform into cyklohexilamine, is a substance, which was laboratory-proven to be connected to the urinary system cancer.

Polyols - sorbitol and xylitol

Polyols are another group of sugar substitutes, which are sometimes called sugar alcohols. They are naturally present in some kind of fruit, such as apples or rowanberries and they are used mostly in production of sweets, cookies, candy, chewing gums and sometimes pastry. These sweeteners have a disadvantage - their high energy yield. Some polyols, such as sorbitol, can produce gas in the intestinal tract during their degradation, or, in higher consumption, they can cause diarrhoea in some consumers - which can be unwanted and uncomfortable.

Sucralose

Sucralose is another substitute artificial sweetener, it is 600 times sweeter than sugar, but it only has an energy yield of one fifth and its blood sugar index is very low. It is highly stable in processing in high temperatures, it stimulates growth of probiotic bacteria in the small intestine. Sucralose is made by a synthesis of sucrose and it is being used as a sweetener in desserts, sweet sauces, frozen dairy products, sweets, chewing gums, fruit juices, ready-made meals, instant foods and spices. In comparison with other artificial sweeteners, sucralose is considered a quite safe artificial sweetener.

Mannitol

It is a sugar alcohol, sorbitol isomer. The name of this artificial sweetener comes from the word manna, which is a sugary juice, made from the ash tree bark; it also contains mannitol. Mannitol is used as a sweetener for persons suffering from diabetes, but it is also being used in clinical medicine, for example in decrease of diuresis and it can be a part of various medicaments, which are being used in brain-related disorders, the Alzheimer's disease etc. Dissolution of mannitol uses heat and that is why mannitol is sometimes used as a sweetener for breath fresheners, the resulting cooling effect gives the feeling of freshness.

Acesulfame potassium

Acesulfame is a white crystalline sweetener and taste enhancer. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar and it has a slightly bitter taste, which is suppressed by combination with other sweeteners. It has the ability to enhance the ability to sweeten of other synthetic sweeteners and it does not contain any calories. It features long durability and resistance to high temperatures, it is also water-soluble. Potassium is a chemical element. It is often mixed with maltodextrins.

It is used in sweets, non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks, instant drinks, pastry, yoghurts, frozen desserts, chewing gum, instant coffee, canned products etc. Human body cannot absorb the acesulfame potassium and it is being discharged in urine. The laboratory tests did not prove the substance to have toxic or carcinogenic effects. However, if the substance is heated, toxic evaporations appear.

Isomalt

It belongs into the group of sugar alcohols produced from sugar beet. It is being used as a moistener, stabilizer, sweetener, carrier and anti-caking substance. This artificial sweetener is approximately half as sweet as table sugar and it does not leave any taste in the mouth. It is used as an artificial sweetener in low-energy foods, sweets, ice creams, desserts, jams, cake creams, chewing gums and chocolate. There are no known undesirable effects, but in higher consumption, it can cause stomach disorder, flatulence or diarrhoea.

Fructose

Fructose is a monosaccharide, which is commonly present in various different foods, such as fruit, honey etc. The fact that it can be used as a sugar substitute has been discovered only recently. It is approximately a third more sweet than sucrose and it has the same caloric value. We often encounter the fructose being added into various DIA products, which leads to a rumour, believed by some people, that fructose is healthier than other substitutes. However, in comparison with other sweeteners, the difference is quite insignificant.

Sorbitol

In nature, the sorbitol is present in some berries, for example in grapes and rowanberries, and in other fruits, such as cherries, plums, pears and apples. However, it is hard to absorb in human body. It has a sweet pleasant taste and it contains 30% less calories than sucrose. It is often used as a sugar substitute for people suffering from diabetes in the food industry. Sorbitol is used as a sweetener and a thickener. It also prevents fat turning rancid.

Sorbitol is mainly used as an artificial sweetener for people suffering from diabetes and for low-calorie diet. It is also used in chewing gums, ice creams, sweets and desserts. Sorbitol is not suitable for small children and it is also not recommended to use it is higher doses. After consumption of higher dose, it causes flatulence, gas, stomach irritation and in more sensitive persons, it can work as a laxative. Sorbitol can alter absorption of some drugs, which can become less effective or more toxic.

Thaumatin

It is a sugar substitute, which is being made by a water extraction of fruit ovary of Thaumatococcus daniellii (Benth), which grows in West Africa. It is approximately 2000 times sweeter than sugar and it tastes very differently than a regular sugar. It develops very slowly and the feeling lasts a long time, in high doses, liquorice taste remains. It is used because of its ability to enhance the taste of some other substances. It is highly water soluble and it is heat-stable even in sour conditions.

Maltitol

Maltitol is a sugar substitute almost as sweet as sugar, it reaches 75-90% of regular sugar sweetness. Maltitol is a stabilizing agent and a moisturising substance. This substance is being used in chewing gums, various sweets, frozen creams and it is often contained in table sweeteners. In regular doses, this substance is completely harmless. If used excessively, it can cause intestinal discomfort.

Lactitol

It is a sugar substitute, made from milk, one third as sweet as sugar, also less caloric than sugar. Lactitol is being used mostly in chewing gums and sweets. Higher doses cause diarrhoea.

Xylitol

Xylitol is another sugar substitute, naturally present in fruits, vegetables and mushrooms. Sweetening ability of xylitol is the same as sugar. Xylitol has an advantage: It does not have an adverse effect on teeth, on the contrary, it has positive effects. It is used especially as a table sweetener for diabetics and then for production of sweets and chewing gums, various pastilles. In regular doses in foods, this substance does not have any side effects. In case of consuming a very large amount, it can cause diarrhoea.

Neohesperidin DC

Neohesperidin DC is an artificial sweetener. This sweetener is approximately 1000 times sweeter than sugar. This sweetener is mostly used to enhance aroma in some juices, sweets, chewing gums, also in production of toothpastes and mouthwashes and it is also used to remove bitter taste of some drugs. It has further uses as a table sweetener, as a flavour enhancer in mayonnaises, mustards, margarines, fruit jelly etc. No adverse effect are known in connection with this sweetener. In the CR, saccharin can be used in limited amounts in selected foods.


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