Artificial sweetener

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2017)
structure of saccharine

Source:chem.umass.edu

structure of aspartame

Structure of aspartame showing various components; aspartate (red color), phenylalanine (blue color), and methanol (pink color). Source: Common Wikimedia

Artificial sweetener is a compound that imparts the sweet taste to various processed foods and beverages. The main purpose of adding artificial sweeteners into the processed foods and beverages is to cut off the calories. This is because they mimic the natural sugar and compete with them for sweet taste receptors. Artificial sweeteners are the non-carbohydrate sweetener that can be synthetic or semi-synthetic. They are either metabolically inert or contribute very little to the energy production.

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Natural sweeteners

Naturally occurring sugars such as sucrose, glucose, and fructose are sweet in taste. Honey contains primarily fructose, glucose, and maltose. Fructose is 1.5 times sweeter than sucrose and that’s why honey is sweeter than just simple sucrose solution. Sucrose solution is the reference solution that helps us measure the degree of sweetness of various sweeteners. Here, I have described some of the popular and important artificial sweeteners below.



Various types of artificial sweeteners

Saccharine is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners discovered in 1879. It is commercially available with a name tag “Sweet’N Low”. It is the safest sweetener than any other artificial sweetener and was first approved for human use in 1981 and is currently the market leader.

The second most common artificial sweetener is aspartame. It is available on the market with various name tags such as NutraSweet and Equal; however, it is metabolizable. It breaks into its components aspartate, phenylalanine, and methanol. Aspartame is not a calorie-free sweetener because aspartate and phenylalanine can be metabolized as other amino acids. But the good point is that it doesn’t exaggerate the metabolic conditions of the diabetic person because of low intake concentration.



However, people with phenylketonuria should avoid the intake of foods and beverages that contain aspartame. This is because these people cannot metabolize phenylalanine released from aspartame. Therefore, aspartame has side effects. More than that, long-term use of the aspartame can also cause behavioral changes.

Acesulfame is another type of artificial sweeteners. It is available as alone or sometimes in combination with aspartame. That is because their combination makes much strong sweetening effect than their individual effects. Other artificial sweeteners include; stevioside and sucralose. All of these artificial sweeteners have a great market because of their role in the lowering of carbohydrate intake.

People with carbohydrate metabolism disorders use these artificial sweeteners to enjoy the sweet taste while cutting off the intake of real sugar/carbohydrate. In addition to the sweetening property, artificial sweeteners also have anti-cancerous activity and some side effects such as behavioral changes and interference with GI digestive system.

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