Sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners

sugar substitute

Table of Contents

Sugar Substitutes

sugar substitute is a food additive type that offers a pleasant taste similar to sugar but containing considerably less food energy than sugar-based sweeteners. Such sugar substitutes are used in making zero-calorie (non-nutritive) or low-calorie sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners may be made by chemical synthesis processes or manufacturing plant extracts. Sugar alcohols like xylitol, erythritol, and sorbitol are made from sugars. Sucralose is the most common sugar substitute utilized to manufacture foods and beverages.

Natural Sweeteners

The term “all-natural” is ill-defined when it is used in food. When individuals use the term “all-natural sweetener,” they usually indicate sweeteners that are not fine-tuned granulated sugar (pure sucrose from sugarcane) or high fructose corn syrup.

Compared to non-nutritious sweeteners, natural sweeteners have calories and nutrients and are metabolized and modified as they travel through the body. They include agave nectar, brown rice syrup, date sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, blackstrap molasses, sorghum syrup, and stevia.

Artificial Sweeteners

Sugar alternatives are sweeteners that you use as opposed to normal table sugar (sucrose). Artificial sweeteners are just one kind of sugar replacement.

The subject of sugar substitutes can be complex. One trouble is that the terms are usually open up to interpretation.

Some suppliers call their sweeteners “natural,” although they are processed or fine-tuned. Stevia prep work is an example, while some artificial sweeteners come from naturally occurring compounds.

Are all sweeteners the same?

When you are comparing sweeteners, keep these points in mind:

  • Sugars are normally occurring carbs. These consist of brown sugar, walking stick sugar, confectioners’ sugar, fructose, honey, and molasses. They have calories and raise your blood sugar levels (the level of sugar in your blood).
  • Reduced-calorie sweeteners are sugar alcohols. Examples are isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. You will usually find them in sugar-free candy as well as gum. They have half the calories of sugars but can also raise your blood sugar levels, although not as high as other carbs.
  • Artificial sweeteners are considered “cost-free food.” They were developed in a laboratory, have no calories, and do not increase your blood sugar levels.

Types of Artificial Sweeteners

Below are the types of artificial sweeteners:

  • Saccharin. You can use it for cold and hot food. Avoid this sweetener if you are expecting or breastfeeding.
  • Aspartame. You can use it in both chilly as well as warm food. It might lose some sweetness at a high temperature.
  • Acesulfamepotassiumor Ace-K. You can use it in both chilly and warm food, including in cooking and food preparation.
  • Sucralose. You can utilize it in cold and hot food, including in cooking and food preparation. Refined food frequently has it.
  • Advantame. It can be used in baked items, non-alcoholic drinks, eating gum tissue, candies, icing, desserts, gelatins and puddings, refined fruits, jams, jellies, and fruit juices toppings, and syrups.

How Do Artificial Sweeteners Work?

The surface area of your tongue is covered by moist, pink tissue called the mucosa. Tiny bumps called papillae to give the tongue its rough texture. Several thousand taste buds cover the surfaces of the papillae that discover different flavors. When you consume food, your taste receptors come across food particles. Then, an ideal fit between a receptor and a molecule sends out a signal to your brain, enabling you to determine the preference. For instance, the sugar particle fits perfectly into your preference receptor for sweetness, enabling your mind to identify the sweet taste. 

Artificial sweetener particles are comparable enough to sugar molecules to fit on the sweetness receptor. However, they are usually different from sugar for your body to break them down into calories. This is how they supply a sweet taste minus the included calories.

Only a fraction of the artificial sweeteners has a structure that your body can break down right into calories. Given how only tiny amounts of artificial sweeteners are needed to make food taste sweet, you take in practically no calories.

Effect on Hunger

It is common to use artificial sweeteners these days. Packaged food, drinks, and ice creams consist of these sugar replacements. Many individuals also like artificial sweeteners over sugar to aid with weight gain and obesity, often without recognizing that it could have an opposite effect. A new study has revealed that artificial sweeteners might affect the part of the brain that controls cravings as though it can stimulate appetite. The research “Cell Metabolic rate” assessed exactly how artificial sweeteners impacted the mind in modifying preference assumptions and regulating hunger for food.

The brain’s reward system (mesolimbic dopamine system) gets activated when we eat sweet foods. A brain chemical, dopamine, is released by neurons and can signal that an event was positive. When the reward system fires, it reinforces behaviors — making it more likely for us to carry out these actions again. When sweetness versus power gets out of balance, the brain recalibrates and enhances overall calories eaten.

Effect on Weight

Some studies report a correlation between consuming artificially sweetened drinks and weight problems regarding weight control. Nonetheless, randomized controlled studies—the gold requirement in clinical research—report that artificial sweeteners may reduce body weight, fat mass, and waist area.

These studies additionally show that switching from normal soft drinks to sugar-free variations can reduce body mass index (BMI) by as much as 1.3–1.7 factors. In addition, choosing synthetically sweetened food rather than those with sugar coating might decrease the variety of everyday calories you take in.

Moreover, numerous research varying from 4 weeks to 40 months show that switching to artificial sweeteners may cause weight management of up to 2.9 extra pounds (1.3 kg). That said, unnaturally sweetened drinks can be an easy alternative for those who routinely consume sodas but want to reduce their sugar consumption.

Nevertheless, choosing diet soda will not cause any weight reduction if you compensate by eating bigger portions or additional sweets. If a diet plan soft drink boosts your yearnings for desserts, sticking to water might be best.

Artificial Sweeteners and Diabetics

Sugar substitutes do not affect your blood sugar level. Many artificial sweeteners are regarded as “free food”—or food that contains less than 20 calories and 5 grams or much fewer carbohydrates. As such, they do not count as calories or carbohydrates on a diabetic issues exchange. However, various other components in food that have artificial sweeteners can still affect your blood sugar level.

Some studies have found that replacing sugar-sweetened food and drinks with those that have been synthetically sweetened may not be as advantageous as once believed. This might be specifically true when artificial sweeteners are eaten in large amounts. Still, more research is required to prove so. 

Additionally, beware of sugar alcohols such as mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol as they can increase your blood sugar level. For some individuals, sugar alcohols might even trigger diarrhea.

Effect on gut health

Researchers discovered that six typical artificial sweeteners accepted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and ten sport supplements that contained them are toxic to the digestive intestine microbes of mice. They observed that the microorganisms discovered in the digestive system turned toxic when subjected to just 1 mg per ml of artificial sweeteners.

This is more proof that consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely influences digestive tract microbial activity, which can then create a wide variety of wellness problems. Some artificial sweeteners might even trigger unpleasant signs and symptoms, such as migraines, depression, and also seizures in some individuals.

While most researches find no link between aspartame and migraines, it should be noted that some individuals are more delicate than others. This irregularity might also relate to aspartame’s impacts on anxiety. For example, people with mood disorders might be more likely to experience depressive symptoms in response to aspartame usage.

Artificial Sweeteners and Oral Health and Wellness

Dental cavities—also called decays or dental caries—occur when the microorganisms in your mouth ferment sugar. Acid is created, which can harm tooth enamel. Unlike sugars, artificial sweeteners do not respond to the bacteria in your mouth. This indicates they do not create acids or cause tooth decay.

Research also reveals that sucralose is much less likely to cause tooth decay than sugar.

Because of this, the FDA allows products containing sucralose to claim that they decrease dental cavities. Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority states that all artificial sweeteners, when consumed instead of sugar, neutralize acid and help stop dental caries.

Health Concerns with Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners have been inspected intensely for decades. Critics of artificial sweeteners claim that they lead to a variety of illnesses, including cancer. That is due to researches dating back to the 1970s that linked the artificial sweetener saccharin to bladder cancer cells in lab rats. Due to those researches, saccharin soon carried a label caution that it might be hazardous to your wellness.

According to the National Cancer Institute and other sources, no sound clinical proof that anyone of the artificial sweeteners authorized for use in the USA cause cancer or various other major health issues. Countless researches validate that artificial sweeteners are normally secure in limited amounts, even for expecting women. As a result, the caution tag for saccharin was dropped.

The FDA controls artificial sweeteners as a preservative. The FDA must approve them before such products can be sold to consumers. Sometimes, the FDA declares a substance as “usually acknowledged as safe” (GRAS). Substances get this classification if they meet either of these standards:

  • Certified experts regard the substance secure for its intended usage based on scientific information. Stevia preparations are an instance of this sort of GRAS designation.
  • The compounds have such an extensive background of usual usage in food that they are considered normally secure.

The FDA has developed an acceptable everyday consumption (ADI) for every artificial sweetener. The ADI is the optimum quantity thought about secure to consume every day throughout a lifetime. 

Use in moderation

When choosing sugar substitutes, it pays to be a savvy consumer. Artificial sweeteners, as well as sugar substitutes, can help with weight management. However, they are not a weight loss diet plan and should be used just in moderation. Additionally, food marketed as “sugar-free” is not necessarily calorie-free, so it can still trigger weight gain. Bear in mind that processed foods that frequently include sugar substitutes normally do not supply the same health advantages as an entire food, such as fruits and vegetables.

Generally, using artificial sweeteners poses few dangers and might also have advantages for weight loss, blood sugar control, and dental wellness. These sweeteners are especially advantageous if you use them to reduce added sugar in your diet.

That said, the likelihood of adverse effects manifesting can vary by person and depend on the type of artificial sweetener consumed. For instance, some people might feel unwell or experience unfavorable effects after eating artificial sweeteners.


Even as artificial sweeteners are generally safe, they are also quite beneficial to wellness. Researchers at the Oklahoma Medical Research Study Foundation have discovered in several studies that aspartame is effective in relieving pain associated with multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, as well as sickle cell anemia.

However, whether artificial sweeteners are shown in the future to have therapeutic effects remains to be seen. In the meantime, though, their main function is to help individuals lower calorie consumption and/or control diabetes-related issues. If you do not need to watch your calories or your blood sugar, there is no reason for you to use sweeteners unless you just like the taste. But if you need to regulate your sugar and caloric consumption, using artificial sweeteners is a safe, effective way to do that.

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6. Bian, X., et al. (2017). The artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium affects the gut microbiome and body weight gain in CD-1 mice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5464538/
7. Guerrero-Wyss, M., et al. (2018). D-tagatose is a promising sweetener to control glycaemia: A new functional food. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29546070

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