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Essential artificial sweeteners and their effects on health

Sweetness, one of the five tastes, is essential to all foods we eat. Sugar is commonly used to give this sweet taste.

As food culture develops in recent years, research results suggest that excessive sugar intake leads to various chronic diseases. Resources that raise awareness about the dangers of sugar are also widely available.

As the harms of sugar rather than the benefits have become an issue, artificial sweeteners to replace them have emerged. So, let’s look at the types of artificial sweeteners.

Types of sweeteners

Sweeteners are additives that give food a sweet taste. It is divided into natural sweeteners (licorice, stevia, monk fruit extract) and artificial sweeteners (chemical compounds).

Recently, as prevention of diseases related to excessive sugar consumption has become important, interest in so-called artificial sweeteners with low or no calories is increasing. Sweeteners are excreted from the body without being digested. It does not affect blood glucose levels, so diabetics may find it sweet. It also lowers the chances of developing cavities.

However, as the results of studies on the relationship between fetal obesity and cancer related to artificial sweeteners have been published, interest in the unknown health effects of sweeteners is also increasing.

Sweeteners have been gradually increasing in use since their development. The essential artificial sweeteners that we commonly consume are:


It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Used in conjunction with aspartame in Coca-Cola Zero, Diet Pepsi products. It is also used with sucralose in other mixed drinks.

Although the possibility of causing cancer is being discussed, it is rated as safe according to the risk assessment report. Acesulfame potassium is also used in processed foods such as gum and candy.


Aspartame is also 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is the only sweetener used in Diet Coke and the Dr Pepper Diet, and is used as the primary sweetener in Diet Pepsi products. It is also used in processed foods such as candy, gum, and sweets.

Aspartame has no relationship with insulin and does not raise blood sugar, so it can be said to be a sweetener that can be used for diabetic patients. However, aspartame contains phenylalanine, which can cause side effects in people with genetic disorders that lack the enzyme that breaks it down.


It is a sweetener with a taste very similar to sugar and 600 times sweeter than sugar. Sweetness develops quickly and the duration of sweetness is similar to that of sugar. It is a key ingredient in “Splenda” products. It is often used in food and beverages along with acesulfame potassium.

However, there are studies that show that when consumed in large amounts for a long period of time, beneficial intestinal bacteria that help control blood sugar decrease and the number of intestinal bacteria that can contribute to infection increases. It is used in processed foods such as mixed drinks, candy, and fermented milk.


When used in combination with most other sweeteners, sodium saccharin is synergistic. As a result, the total need for calorie-free sweeteners may be reduced. The degree of sweetness is 200-700 times that of sugar, and the sweetness intensity varies depending on the concentration.

When the concentration is high, the sweetness is low, and when the concentration is low, the sweetness is high. Because of these properties, the sweetness remains long even when the concentration in the mouth decreases. In addition, as the concentration increases, bitterness is added to the aftertaste. It is used in processed foods such as pickles.

Stevia leaf extract

A substance extracted from the stevia plant in South America, sometimes sold under trade names such as Truvia and Pure Via. Stevia refers to stevioside that is 300 to 900 times sweeter than sugar. It is made by enzymatic treatment of glycosides contained in stevia leaves. It has a strong sweet taste but a bitter aftertaste.

Monk fruit

It is a natural ingredient and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is a sweetener that tastes most similar to sugar.

Used as food for centuries in China, leah fruit contains substances called mogrosides. The extract is used sparingly in foods and beverages, such as “Nectresse” products, and may contain other sweeteners (erythritol, sugar, molasses), so be sure to check the product label carefully when purchasing.

Sugar alcohols (erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, etc.)

Sugar alcohol has about half the calories of sugar (erythritol has 1/20 of the calories of sugar). Eating too much can cause digestive problems (indigestion, stomach pain, diarrhea, gas).

Also, most sugar alcohols do not cause tooth decay. This is because most sugar alcohols do not produce acid unlike sugar that causes tooth decay.

Precautions to be taken when consuming sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are mostly consumed through processed foods as food additives. Therefore, it should be clear why artificial sweeteners are used instead of sugar.

Diabetics may need to use artificial sweeteners to prevent blood sugar rises. However, in other cases, the correct use of artificial sweeteners instead of sugar in daily life should be carefully considered.

Excessive consumption of sweet foods can decrease your sensitivity to sweets. In order to increase the sensitivity to sweet taste, gradually reducing sugar intake should precede the use of artificial sweeteners.

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