Friday, 4 October 2019

Sugar substitutes - which ones can we use?

As spring approaches, and we try to shed those few extra pounds gained in winter, sugar is the first to get struck off the list.  But which are good substitutes?  In this article, I explore the different sweeteners, natural and artificial, and recommend the ones that can be used and the ones we should avoid.

Fructose - Avoid
Many of a weight loss diet or low carbohydrate diet use fructose as a sweetener.  Fructose goes straight to your liver for processing and gets converted to glycerol, so whilst it does not create an immediate spike in insulin, it does create an insulin spike a few hours later.  Fructose raises triglyceride (cholesterol) levels.  Fructose is naturally found in fruits and some vegetables, but in its natural form, the naturally occurring fibre in fruits and vegetables slow down the fructose absorption.  However, high fructose corn syrup, a processed fructose from corn added to many processed foods like fruit juices, jams, desserts, soft drinks, protein shakes and other commercially processed food or drinks create huge imbalances in blood sugar levels and can increase fatty deposits in the liver leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  Fructose can also create bloating in patients with gastrointestinal problems.

Sucralose - Avoid
The most common tradename for Sucralose is Splenda, although a few other companies also make sucralose sweeteners.  Sucralose is bound to maltodextrin, which has about 12-15% sugar which causes insulin response, making it difficult to reverse diabetes and work on weight loss.  This additive has a E number index of E955.

Stevia – Can use 

Stevia is a plant with extremely sweet non-caloric leaves that contains no carbohydrates.  It is 30 times sweeter than sugar, and putting too much of stevia powder or liquid into your food or drink makes it bitter.  It does not stimulate an insulin response.  Be careful that you do not use stevia with maltodextrin.

Buddha’s fruit (or Luo Han Guo) – Can use
This is a relatively new sweetener, with zero calories and does not raise blood sugar levels.

Aspartame - Avoid
The most popular brand names of aspartame are Equal and NutraSweet. Typically, if the product/ drink says ‘Diet’ it is may be sweetened with aspartame.  Long term use of aspartame can create other problems particularly of the neurological systems like headaches, migraines, dizziness and mood disorders.  Aspartame in powder form sold as Equal or NutraSweet contains maltodextrin which leads to weight gain and metabolic syndrome.  This sweetener has been shown to affect the gut microbiome.  This can have a huge impact on weight loss.  This additive has a E number index of E951.

Acesulphame K - Avoid
This is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners.  It is used in many ‘diet’ products.  Though it contains no calories, it sparks an insulin response and weight loss is difficult with Acesulphame K.  This additive has a E number index of E950.

Saccharine – Avoid
This is one of the oldest brand names around.  Whilst it contains zero calories, the latest tests have shown that saccharine disrupts the gut microbiome which we now know has a great impact on weight loss.  Hence, this is not a good sweetener for weight loss purposes.  This additive has a E number index of E954.

Erythritol – Can use with care
This is a sugar alcohol with very little sugar and very low glycemic index (GI=1).  It is good for dental care (does not contribute to tooth decay) but is not easily digested in the stomach, so is fermented by bacteria in the intestines.  This can increase flatulence.

Xylitol – Can use with care
This is a sugar alcohol with a higher glycemic index (GI=10).  Like erythritol, it does not contribute to tooth decay and some clinical trials claim that xylitol may even prevent dental plague.  However, xylitol may cause diarrhea in susceptible individuals or in larger doses.  Use with care.

Thaumatin – Can use
This is a natural sweetener and has zero glycemic index.  This is extremely sweet.  This sweetener is not easily available.  However there are no known disadvantages using it.