(HealthCastle.com) What's the difference between all the artificial sweeteners in the grocery store? Is one better than the other? Do they really have zero sugar in them? Many people with diabetes wonder if their diet plans can include artificial sweeteners. The good news is that in a healthy, balanced diet there is room for foods that are made with artificial sweeteners, although it's best to use these sweeteners in moderation so you can still get all the nutrients you need from other foods.
Artificial sweeteners are also known as non-nutritive sweeteners or sugar substitutes. Basically this means that they are not a significant source of nutrition or vitamins in your diet. Artificial sweeteners are used instead of sugar to lower or eliminate the amount of carbohydrates - and therefore calories - in food and drinks. For people with diabetes this opens up the door for a wider selection of items that can fit into a healthy meal plan.
Popular Artificial Sweeteners
Splenda, also known as sucralose, is a newcomer among artificial sweeteners. Its producers claim that it's "made from sugar so it tastes like sugar," meaning its sugar that's been modified to be carbohydrate-free. It's a lot sweeter than regular table sugar, though. Sucralose has undergone many scientific studies and been deemed safe for use in lots of different food items. You can find sucralose in snack foods, baked goods, ice cream, and even in pharmaceuticals.
Aspartame is the artificial sweetener found in the blue packet. It's sold under the brand names Nutrasweet or Equal. Like Splenda, it is used in many food items, especially beverages and snack foods. Aspartame is very low in calories and has been approved by regulatory agencies for widespread use as an artificial sweetener.
Sweet'n Low, or saccharin, is the oldest artificial sweetener on the market. It is sold in pink packets. It is most commonly found among condiments in restaurants and coffee shops. The use of saccharin has been controversial. However, claims about its harmful health effects have been disputed and it is not considered to be a carcinogen (a cancer-causing substance).
Neotame is one of the newest artificial sweeteners available. It is similar in structure to aspartame and also made by the company Nutrasweet. It is much sweeter than table sugar and is used by food manufacturers to sweeten and enhance various food items. It is also carbohydrate-free.
Sweeteners: A Quick Comparison
Sweeter Than Sugar
NutraSweet, Equal, others
Years prior to 1958
Sweet'n Low, Sweet Twin, Sugar Twin, others
Source: Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, IFT, 2006
The Bottom Line
Artificial sweeteners are used to sweeten foods that normally contain table sugar (sucrose) without adding carbohydrates or calories. The primary difference among them is taste, degree of sweetness, and chemical structure. People with diabetes can expand their meal plans with foods made from artificial sweeteners without having to worry about excess carbohydrate intake. The key is to choose the sweetener that is most preferable to your taste buds and to keep your meal plan healthy and varied.
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.