Artificial Sweeteners

What are Artificial Sweeteners?

Natural sweeteners such as fructose and sucrose give sweetness to a substance, but they also contain calories that may be harmful to humans when taken in excess quantity. On the other hand, artificial sweeteners are the substances used as substitutes for natural sugar (sucrose). They consist of fewer calories. These are many times sweeter compared to regular sugar, so they are also known as intense sweeteners. A few of them are so sweet that maltodextrin or dextrose is added to reduce the intense sweetness of artificial sweetening agents. Generally, these sweetening agents are obtained from synthetic sugar substitutes. But these sweeteners are also formed from natural substances, including herbs or sugar itself.

Artificial sweetener is the most attractive substitute for sugar because it does not add more calories to our diet. This can be used directly in processed food like dairy products, puddings, candy, baked goods, jams, soft drinks, and other various foods and beverages. We can also use it after mixing with starch-based sweeteners.

How Does Artificial Sweetening Agent Work?

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In order to make a sweetening agent work properly, the sweetener should be soluble in water, and it should readily bind to the receptor molecule lying on the surface of the tongue. Actually, the receptor is connected with a G- protein, and when the sweetener binds to the receptor, the G- protein begins to dissociate, which in turn activates a nearby enzyme and triggers an event sequence in which the signals are transmitted to and are interpreted by the brain - the interaction between the sweetener and receptor results for the sweetness of an artificial sweetening agent.

In general, the surface of our tongue is covered by many taste buds, each containing several taste receptors that detect different flavors. When we eat, our taste receptors encounter food molecules.

A perfect fit between a molecule and the receptor sends a signal to our brain, allowing us to identify the taste. For instance, the sugar molecule fits perfectly into our taste receptor for sweetness, allowing the brain to identify the taste of sweetness.

Artificial sweetener molecules are enough likely to sugar molecules to fit on the sweetness receptor. However, generally, they are much different from sugar for our body in breaking them down into calories. Like this, they provide a sweet taste with no added calories.

Just a handful of artificial sweeteners have a structure that can break down the body into calories. Because only very little amounts of artificial sweeteners are required to make foods taste sweet, we consume no calories virtually.

Most Common Artificial Sweeteners

Some of the most common Artificial sweeteners are listed below.

1. Saccharin

Saccharin was discovered in 1879 and considered to be the oldest non-nutritive and the most common sweeteners. Sucrose is nearly 300 times less sweet than Saccharin, but it exhibits a bitter aftertaste. It cannot be used in products where food baking is necessary as it becomes unstable when undergone to heat. But it can be used to sweeten drinks, candies, and toothpaste.

The structure of Saccharin will be as,

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2. Aspartame

Aspartame was discovered in 1879, which is one of the most common sweeteners, and it was found to be about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Aspartame is a dipeptide methyl ester, and it is named as aspartyl phenylalanine-1-methyl ester. It is a commonly used tabletop sweetener and one of the advantages of aspartame is that it is also used in a wide variety of foods. When heated, it breaks down into amino acids and loses its sweetness. So it cannot be used for baked foods. It is only used in soft drinks and cold foods as it becomes unstable at cooking temperature.

The structure of Aspartame will be as,

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Common Artificial Sweeteners

Below are a few of the most common artificial sweeteners that are allowed for use in the United States and/or in the European Union.

  • Aspartame

It is sold on the brand names of NutraSweet, Equal, or Sugar Twin. It is 200 times sweeter compared to table sugar.

  • Acesulfame Potassium

Acesulfame potassium is a common artificial sweetener and is otherwise known as acesulfame K and is 200 times sweeter than table sugar. It suits cooking, baking, and is sold under the brand names of Sunset or Sweet One.

  • Advantame

This sweetener is 20,000 times sweeter to table sugar and suits for cooking, baking.

Advantages of Artificial Sweeteners

Fewer advantages of Artificial sweeteners are listed below.

  • Healthier Teeth

Sugar is a common sweetener and plays an essential role in tooth decay and cavities. Substituting less sugar with the artificial sweeteners, one may be able to reduce these effects on your teeth.

  • Weight Loss/Control

Loss or maintenance of weight is the key reason why people start using artificial sweeteners. The Mayo Clinic says that every one gram of sugar contains four calories. So by replacing the regular sugar with a calorie-free sweetener, we can reduce the number of calories that we have each day.

  • Diabetes

For people with diabetes, eating too much (if any) sugar is a real concern. Artificial sweeteners are a safe choice because they do not raise blood sugar levels. However, it is important to consult your doctor about sugar alternatives.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Mention a Few Benefits and Bottlenecks of Using Aspartame as a Sugar Substitute?

Aspartame is harmless to the overwhelming majority of the population. However, some people report an unpleasant aftertaste of aspartame.

It is not appropriate for people having the problem of phenylketonuria ( PKU) who are unable to metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine, so the products containing aspartame are labelled as mandatory in certain countries to alert patients with PKU about the existence of aspartame. People with this disorder need to eat special diets. Typically PKU is diagnosed in neonates because it is a part of the diseases tested in the Guthrie (heel prick) blood test. It is not possible that an individual will have PKU and not be aware that they have it.

2. What are the Best Natural Sweeteners?

Natural sweeteners are naturally available things that have a sweet taste. The sweet taste is due to the existence of OH groups with a particular orientation.

There are numerous natural sweeteners, and some of them are many times sweeter than normal sugar. Here is a list of such items.

Agave - This is a liquid sweetener formed from the sap of the agave cactus plant.

Barley malt syrup - It is produced from sprouted barley that is roasted and cooked down to a syrup.

Cane sugar - It is made from sugarcane, which is crushed mechanically to extract its juice.

Coconut sugar - This is produced from the sap of coconut flower buds and cooked down to reduce the water content to form a crystallized or liquid sweetener.

Date sugar - It is made from dried, pulverized dates.

Honey - Honey is produced by honeybees from the flower’s nectar.

Stevia This is a sugar substitute extracted from the plant leaves of Stevia.

There is epidemiological evidence that low-calorie sweeteners, of which aspartame is one, do not aid with weight loss as anticipated.