Artificial Sweeteners and Sweetening Agents

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What are Artificial Sweeteners?

Sweetening Agent

An artificial sweetener or a sweetening agent is a sugar substitute, known as a food additive, which provides you with a sweet taste similar to that of sugar. However, it contains significantly less food energy as compared to the sugar-based sweeteners, which makes it a zero-calorie or a low-calorie sweetener. Artificial sweeteners can be derived through different plant extracts or when they are processed by chemical synthesis. Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter when compared to regular sugar and hence they are also sometimes known as intense sweeteners. 

Many of these artificial sweeteners are so sweet to an extent that either dextrose or maltodextrin is added to these sweeteners for reducing the intense sweetness. These sweetening agents, however, are usually obtained from synthetic sugar substitutes. They have also formed from natural substances such as herbs or just the sugar itself.

Artificial sweeteners are amongst the most attractive substitutes to sugar since they do not add too many calories in your diet. They can also be used directly in many of the processed food such as in dairy products, puddings, candy, baked goods, jams, soft drinks, and several other beverages and food items. They can also be used once they are mixed with starch-based sweeteners. Today, we will be learning about what artificial sweeteners are, the advantages and disadvantages of natural sweeteners, and look at the artificial sweeteners examples in this natural and artificial sweeteners PDF.

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How Do Artificial Sweeteners Work?

Let us learn how artificial sweeteners work in our body.

For the proper functioning of the sweetening agent, it must be soluble in water and should readily bind to the receptor molecule which is present on our tongue surface. The receptor is connected to a G- protein. Whenever the sweetening agent binds to the receptor, the G- protein starts to dissociate, which helps to activate a nearby enzyme. As a result, it tends to trigger a sequence of events wherein the signals get transmitted to and then are interpreted by our brain. This interaction between the sweetener and the receptor is responsible for the sweetness that the artificial sweetening agent has.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Natural Sweeteners

Natural sweeteners tend to have a huge variety of uses, be it at home, or in the processed foods. They are sometimes also referred to as added sugars since they are added to different food items during processing. Let us discuss the advantages and disadvantages of natural sweeteners.

  • Health Advantages of Natural Sweeteners:

Natural sugar substitutes can often turn out to be healthier than sugar. However, their vitamin and mineral content is not much different. Consider, for example, both honey and sugar are similar nutritionally. Your body would process both of these into glucose and fructose only. Hence, it is fine to consume a natural sweetener depending on how its taste is and not on its health claims. However, be sure to use any sorts of added sweetener sparingly.

  • Health Disadvantages of Natural Sweeteners:

Generally, natural sweeteners are safe. However, there is no health advantage for consuming any kind of added sugar. If you consume too much sugar, even if it is a natural sweetener, it could lead to many health issues like weight gain, poor nutrition, tooth decay, and increased levels of triglycerides. Also, you shouldn’t give honey to kids younger than 1 year of age.

Consuming sugars in moderation is always the key to lead a healthy life. When you choose your sugar substitutes, it tends to pay for being a savvy consumer. Artificial sweeteners can surely help in managing your weight. However, they are no magic bullet and you should consume them only at moderate levels.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are Artificial Sweeteners? Give Examples.

Ans: Artificial sweeteners are called as the substances which are used as substitutes instead of the natural sugar like sucrose and contain comparatively lesser calories. However, they are much sweeter than your regular sugar because of which they are also called as intense sweeteners. The artificial sweeteners examples are given as follows:

  • Saccharin: Saccharin was discovered in the year 1879. It is known to be the oldest and non-nutritive sweetener. Sucrose is around 300 times less sweet when compared to saccharin, but it's aftertaste is bitter. It hence cannot be used in the food products where baking of food is required because it tends to become unstable when heated. However, it is used to sweeten various drinks, candies and even toothpaste.

  • Aspartame: Aspartame was discovered in the year 1879. It was found out that it is about 200 times sweeter than the regular sugar. It is known to be a dipeptide methyl ester and its actual name is known to be aspartyl phenylalanine-1-methyl ester. It is widely used in the form of a tabletop sweetener and a variety of other foods. When heated, it tends to break down into different amino acids and hence loses its sweetness. For the same reason, it is not used in baked foods. Since it tends to become unstable when it is at cooking temperature, it is used only in soft drinks and cold foods.

2. Why Do We Require Artificial Sweetening Agents?

Ans: We need artificial sweetening agents because not only they have a sweet taste, but also because they do not have any food value. They tend to pass directly through your digestive tract and do not get digested. Artificial sweetening agents also help the diabetic patients to consume sweet food and they wouldn’t add any sorts of extra sugar in their body. Even though they do not possess any nutritional value, we require them to give our food sweet taste and to satisfy our sweet cravings. Since artificial sweeteners are present in almost all the processed foods, they become a part of our life and we consume them on a regular basis.