Sweeteners are substances used as additives or sold as sugar substitutes and have the main task of making a food taste sweeter. They are used as sweeteners instead of sugar in many “light” products such as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, sweets, chewing-gum, sugar-free jams, products intended for people suffering from diabetic disease.

Types of sweeteners
These sweeteners can be classified into reduced sugars or polyols and intense sweeteners .

Reduced sugars or polyols
These are sugars obtained from glucose syrup obtained from starch, such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, lactitol or isomalt.
They are characterized by:

  • low glycemic index, therefore used as sweeteners for diabetics;
  • caloric value of about 4 kcal per gram;
  • sweetening power lower than that of sucrose;
  • negative heat of solubilization, which gives a sensation of freshness in the mouth.

Moreover , xylitol is distinguished by its acaryogenic property as it is not attacked by the microorganisms responsible for plaque and dental caries.
In addition to their sweetening power, however, these sugars also have a laxative effect, which could cause diarrhea and abdominal bloating, therefore they cannot be consumed in large quantities. A maximum daily dosage of 50 g is usually recommended. for adults and 10 – 20 g. for children.

Intense sweeteners
These are artificial substances such as aspartame , acesulfame K, saccharin and its salts, cyclamates, thaumatin, neoesperidina DC, often used in combination for a synergistic effect.
They are characterized by:

  • low glycemic index, therefore these are also used as sweeteners for diabetes;
  • sweetening power higher than that of sucrose;
  • proprieta acariogena.

Acesulfame K, saccharin and cyclamates to be heat resistant find a large space in confectionery, pastry and bakery products and in all foods that require cooking (biscuits, for example). While, aspartame and thaumatin cannot be used with cooking foods to be sensitive to heat.

Saccharin, aspartame and cyclamates: undesirable effects
Saccharin can usually leave an unpleasant bitter-metallic aftertaste ; seems to inhibit the digestion of carbohydrates and proteins; tests conducted on laboratory guinea pigs (no data exist for humans) have shown a correlation with bladder cancer and with the development of cancerous abscesses; cases of allergic reaction with urticarial manifestations have been recorded. Aspartame
_, as already mentioned, it must never be subjected to cooking temperatures, as it could generate harmful substances for the food; and forbidden to those affected by phenylketonuria, due to the presence of phenylalanine; in predisposed subjects, it can trigger pseudo-allergic phenomena (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, edema, periorbital erythema, urticaria).
Cyclamates in tests conducted on laboratory guinea pigs (no data exist for humans) caused damage to the testicles. Therefore, having not been acquitted in terms of carcinogenic potential, they are still banned in some countries including the USA.

Sweeteners: consume with caution
Sweeteners are certainly useful as natural sweeteners for diabetics and in slimming diets, but their use must always take place after consulting a doctor as they cannot be consumed regularly as a substitute for natural sugars.
Compliance with the maximum permitted daily dose is essential to remedy the negative effects.

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