Every day, we are all faced with choices of how much sweeteners to use and which ones?

Every time, we drink a cup of coffee or tea, we have many choices of which sweetener to use.


And, of course every time, we select any product and read the list of ingredients there are even more variations of sweeteners. Whether it is cookies, sodas, jams, jellies, fruit yogurts, juices, chewing gum, toothpaste, pickles, Kool Aid, frozen dinners, breath mints, iced tea, or any of the other thousands of products on the super market shelves, many have one or more sweeteners.

In addition to what is pictured above, the sweeteners may include:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Glucose
  • Dextrrose
  • Malt dextrin
  • Acesulfame K
  • Sugar alcohols: Maltitol, erythritol,xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt etc.
  • Maple Syrup
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Fructose
  • Molassses
  • Caramel
  • Lactose

So, which ones are desirable, okay, bad or ugly?

I recently attended a seminar on sweeteners at University of Maryland Medical Center Institute of Integrative Medicine given by a faculty member, Chris D’Adamo, Ph. D. and a Nutrition Coach at their clinic Rachel Druckenmiller.

They offered lots of great information. In fact, if you are interested, I will be happy to send you a copy of their presentation.

Here is some key information I learned.

First a quick math that may be useful in reading the food labels and keeping track of your carbohydrate consumption: 4 grams of sugar = 1 Teaspoon = 1 sugar cube.

It is very important to understand how much sugar you may be ingesting in a serving. Since, most of us understand teaspoons, this conversion can help visualizing. For example, 10 teaspoons in can of coke, 17 teaspoons in a bottle of lemonade and 7 teaspoon in one serving of Yoplait yogurt as pictured below. A 14oz can of condensed milk has 55 teaspoons of sugar. How can they even do that!

Sugar in Coke

Sugar in Lemonade Sugar in OJ Sugar in Yoplait Sugar in Condensed Milk

www.SugarsStacks.com  has many more such examples.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load are two related terms used to measure of how quickly a specified amount of food will cause a rise in blood sugar level.

Glucose has a glycemic index (GI) of 100 and fructose is 25. Sucrose (Ordinary sugar) which is made up of a combination of these two has a GI of 65.

This website http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/glycemic-index-for-sweeteners.html gives Glycemic index of all different sweeteners.

Glycemic Load (GL) also accounts for the total amount of carbohydrate content, not just how fast it converts to glucose.

So, it would seem that we should pick the sweetener with the lowest Glycemic Load.

But alas, the life is not that simple!

Artificial Sweeteners have GI of zero and often very small GL, but they have other harmful effects on the body.  These are well documented in research, although FDA has these on it Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) list. 

Here is a quick summary:

Saccharin is known to cause increased risk of bladder cancer in humans, damages DNA in high doses and impairs recognition of calorie-containing sweets

Aspartame is known to induce DNA damage, causes oxidative stress in brain, has neurotoxic & carcinogenic metabolites, i.e., causes brain damage and cancer. Also, is known to cause depression, insomnia, seizures, memory loss, triggers headaches. It can also cause heart arrhythmias and hypertension.  It is also associated with weight gain and damages gut bacteria.  Just last week Pepsi announced that they will be discontinuing the use of Aspartame.

Sucralose – currently there are not enough human studies and no long term human studies. It has been observed to elevate blood glucose and insulin in some research studies, known to damage gut bacteria, has been involved in inflammatory bowel disease, may trigger migraine headaches. Coke has been introducing beverages with Sucralose.

Acesulfame K – negatively impacts thyroid, has produced thyroid tumor in rats, rabbits and dogs, and may have negative effect on neurometabolic function.

I think you get the idea! All artificial sweeteners have their down side. Saccharin and Aspartame are the worst.

High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS is everywhere in products. It is often the cheapest source of sweetening a product. But it has many adverse health effects.  HFCS digested, absorbed and metabolized differently than glucose.  HFCS is metabolized in liver and favor creation of fat.  It also increases triglycerides and VLDL. HFCS increase risk factors for cardio vascular diseases.

It is definitely advised to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup. 


Best strategy for sweeteners that Chris D’Adamo recommends for optimal heaths is:

Avoid regular intake of artificial sweeteners. Infrequent intake is unlikely to do harm. However, there is enough evidence to suggest caution for regular use.

Make moderate use of natural sweeteners – Stevia, honey, molasses, maple syrup, coconut sugar, yacon, dates are the choices – within your personal dietary carbohydrate goals.

Do a gradual “sweetener taper”. Taste buds will adapt.

Eat moderate amount of whole fruits (preferably ones with low fructose) and berries for sweet taste and health benefits.

What do you think?

What is your take on the sweetener?