What are Artificial Sweeteners?
Sugar denotes sweetness and mostly if something is sweet then it is taken for granted that it is edible! Sugar is an ingredient which has been around for a long time. Any auspicious moment or happy incident is marked by eating something sweet which is a taste usually contributed by sugar. Sugar occupies a very unique place in our culture.
Artificial sweetenersA sweetener is a food additive, which has the effect of sugar on taste and are called sugar substitutes. Artificial sweeteners came into existence more as a replacement or alternatives for table sugar for diabetic people. Those who cannot take sugar in their tea and coffee which are taken on a daily basis started using these artificial sweeteners. But these days demand for artificial sweeteners has increased by leaps and bounds not because diabetics have increased in number but more because they are low-calorie sweeteners. The average per capita consumption of sugar by an adult is about 19 kgs per year accounting for 10-12% of the total calories consumed. In India, it is a little lower about 18 kgs per year. Artificial sweeteners also called non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) are used in several dietary and medicinal products. They give fewer calories and at the same time provide intense sweetness.
Some of the artificial sweeteners commonly used are
- Sucrose polymers
SaccharinIt is a white crystalline powder. It is 300 times sweeter when compared to sucrose. Saccharin is odourless or with a faint aromatic odour. It may leave a bitter or metallic aftertaste. According to The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the acceptable daily intake is 0-5 mg/kg body weight. Pregnant women should avoid saccharin.
AspartameIt is a dipeptide of aspartic acid and phenylalanine which is 180 to 200 times as sweet as our table sugar. It is a white, odourless, crystalline powder which is slightly soluble in water. Aspartame is metabolized in the body and gives 4 kcal/gm. According to JECFA, the acceptable daily intake is 0-40 mg/kg body weight.
Acesulfame-KIt is a derivative of acetoacetic acid. When compared to sucrose it is 200 times sweeter. Acesulfame-K odourless, white crystalline powder and flavour enhancer. When used in high concentrations it may lead to slight after taste. According to JECFA, the acceptable daily intake is 0-15 mg/kg body weight.
Sucrose polymersIt is synthesized by selective chlorination of sucrose. They are 600 times sweeter than table sugar and are becoming quite well accepted as alternate sweeteners.
Vulnerable groupsPeople who should avoid or be very cautious in using artificial sweeteners or non-nutritive sweeteners are
- Pregnant women
- Lactating women
- Migraine patients
- Epilepsy patients