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Sweetener: Low-Calorie Alternative to Sugar?

Sugar or sweetener? It's mainly a matter of taste.
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Sweeteners are sweeteners that are designed to replace sugar. They can be man-made or of natural origin. Sweeteners contain significantly fewer calories than sugar and are used to sweeten foods. They are available in solid form (tablets or powder) or liquid. Sweeteners are used in significantly lower doses than sugar, as they are 30 to 3000 times sweeter.

At a glance:

Sugar alternatives: varied - but healthier?

What sweeteners are there?

Sweeteners are considered additives in food and must therefore be approved. They also get an E number. The table lists the eleven sweeteners currently approved in the EU with E numbers and special features:

sweetenerE numberannotation
Acelsufam-KE 950 
AdvantageE 969takes bitter taste
AspartameE 951 
Aspartame acesulfame saltE 962 
CyclamateE 952low sweetening power, is therefore often used in combination with saccharin
Neohesperidin DCE 959is obtained from the bitter orange and can prevent a bitter taste
NeotameE 961 
SaccharinE 954 
Stevia glycosides (stevia)E 960is obtained from the stevia plant and can have an aftertaste (bitter like liquorice)
SucraloseE 955 
ThaumatinE 957is obtained from the katemfe fruit, has a flavor enhancing effect

Is sweetener unhealthy?

Sweetener is very popular in diets when sugar consumption is to be reduced. However, experts recommend a change in diet. Because in some studies, people gained weight despite sweeteners. Sweeteners do not increase sugar and insulin levels and are therefore also suitable for people with diabetes. However, this also does not satisfy the cravings for sweets.

In addition, according to several studies, sweeteners are suspected of influencing the metabolism, intestinal bacteria and appetite. As a result, sweeteners, if consumed in large quantities and over a long period of time, could increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure or heart disease. According to a 2017 study, people who frequently drink sweetened beverages are three times more likely to develop strokes and dementia.

Overall, it can be said that sweeteners do not offer any health benefits, but rather have a detrimental effect on health if they are consumed over a long period of time. The World Health Organization (WHO) has certified that sweeteners are harmless to health, but set a maximum daily dose.

How much of which sweetener is healthy?

It always depends on how much sweetener is consumed. Moderate use of sweeteners is recommended. The maximum daily dose is determined by the ADI value (acceptable daily intake). If you consume a lot of sweetener, it is therefore best to choose aspartame, as this equates to two sweetener tablets per kilo of body weight. This means that a person weighing 60 kilograms could take up to 120 sweetener tablets a day.

The maximum doses (ADI values) of the sweeteners at a glance:

  • Aspartame: 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight

  • Saccharin: 2.5 mg per kilogram of body weight

  • Cyclamate: 11 mg per kilogram of body weight

  • Acesulfame: 9 mg per kilogram of body weight

  • Aspartame acesulfame salt: 20 mg per kilogram of body weight

  • Advantage: 5 mg per kilogram of body weight

  • Neotame: 2 mg per kilogram of body weight

  • Stevia glycosides (stevia): 4 mg per kilogram of body weight

  • Sucralose: 15 mg per kilogram of body weight

  • Thaumatin: no ADI specified

What side effects can sweeteners have?

Even if it has often been reported, an increased risk of cancer through the consumption of sweeteners has not yet been proven. In addition to the risks mentioned above, when consuming large amounts of sweetener on a regular basis, sweetener is often thought to cause diarrhea. However, it is not sweeteners that cause diarrhea, but so-called sugar substitutes, which are also used for low-calorie sweetening. Sugar substitutes include, for example, sorbitol, erythritol, xylitol and isomalt.

Food with sucralose should not be used for baking, deep-frying and frying, as chlorinated organic compounds with harmful potential are formed at temperatures above 120 degrees Celsius.

The sweeteners aspartame and aspartame-acesulfame salt are dangerous for people with the rare metabolic disease phenylketonuria (PKU). Your body cannot convert phenylalanine, one of the three breakdown products of aspartame. Therefore, those affected are not allowed to consume these two sweeteners.

Labeling of sweeteners

According to the Food Information Ordinance, sweeteners and sugar substitutes must be labeled on foods with the note "with sweetener (s)". Sweeteners must also be listed with their name or E number in the list of ingredients. If a food contains aspartame and aspartame-acesulfame salt, the note "contains a source of phenylalanine" must also be applied so that people with phenylketonuria can avoid them.