Artificial Sweeteners

If you’re trying to eat low cal, or like me, low sugar, artificial sweeteners are pretty much impossible to avoid.  Diet sodas, sugar free anything some diet foods, they are in everything.

Sweeteners come (pretty much) in three varieties, which because of the fact so many brand names exist now, and restaurants have their own packages, I usually refer to them as “pink stuff, blue stuff and yellow stuff” and I think it’s funny that most places offer all three.

We learned about these in Food Science, and I checked out the Wiki page on “Sugar Substitutes” just to refresh my memory on some of the technical stuff.

Sacchrin – “Pink Stuff”… Sweet N Low, etc
This is the one that will kill you (only if you’re a rat who lives in California… everything causes Cancer in California) but not really.  Sacchrin had a cancer scare when it cause problems in rats but it was eventually discovered that this didn’t effect humans.  I had always heard that they fed the rats several times their body weights of the pure stuff, which the human equivalent would be like 900 pounds (a day).  According to the Wiki article the cancer came about through a mechanism in the rats urinary tract which behaves differently in humans and would not cause the same reaction, so I would say this is relatively safe.  It has been rumors to cause headaches in some people, but I don’t know if there is any clinical information regarding this.   300-500 times as “sweet” as sucrose it can be used in very small quantities.

Aspertame – “Blue Stuff” – Equal, NutraSweet etc.
Aspertame is a sweet combination of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine.  I find this ironic since amino acids are the building blocks of proteins (which makes me think of meat, very savory).    A few minor “cancer scares” but it was eventually determined to be GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe).  Not much else to say about this one, pretty tame.. not as controversial as sacchrin.

Sucralose – “Yellow Stuff” – Slenda
I have to be honest.. This stuff scares the crap out of me, especially how quickly it came out on the market (FDA Approval in 1998) and has exploded and it is in EVERYTHING.  Even the first line of the Wiki paragraph pretty much sums it up.. “Sucralose is a chlorinated sucrose…” Yes, that’s right.. it’s a sugar molecule (sucrose or raffinose) with the hydroxl groups (-OH) replaced by chlorines.  I know there’s a ton of stuff we eat like sodium chloride, calcium chloride that are perfectly safe, but chlorine is poisonous.  And don’t believe the “Made from Sugar so it tastes like sugar” line.. this is very heavily chemically altered.  While it has been approved by the FDA and is considered to be safe, sucralose also belongs to a class of chemicals called “organochlorides” many of which are toxic or carcinogenic.  The jury is out for me on this one, but I don’t care for it even though it’s pretty much impossible to avoid.

Stevia – “Green Stuff?” –  TruVia, PurVia
This is actually a natural non-nutritive sweetener from the (you guessed it) Stevia plant, also known as sugar leaf or sweet leaf.  I’m very curious about this new sweetener, and I will be the first to admit I don’t know anything about it.  I’m reading the Wiki page about it so I can learn more about it.

Here’s something interesting.. apparently Stevia was deemed by the FDA as an unsafe food additive and was banned from importation in 1991.  It took 27 years before it was finally approved in 2008.  How’s this for classic American commercialism? “In December 2008, the FDA gave a “no objection” approval for GRAS status to Truvia (developed by Cargill and The Coca-Cola Company) and PureVia (developed by PepsiCo and the Whole Earth Sweetener Company, a subsidiary of Merisant), both of which use rebaudioside A derived from the Stevia plant.”  One of  them was developed by Coke, the other by Pepsi.. let the competition of the Stevia flavored diet sodas begin!

As someone who is fighting a tooth and nail battle with Type 2 diabetes, and is also surrounded by it, both my father and father-in-law are Type 2 diabetic, the more I can learn about artificial or natural sugar alternatives the better.


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  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.