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Artificial Sweeteners and Sugars

January 25, 2010 8:37:05 AM PST
Melissa Dobbins is a registered dietitian and a spokesperson for the Illinois Dietetic Association. She shares some important information on sugar and artificial sweeteners. One in four children and one in three teen girls exceeds the maximum recommended intake of sugar. In addition, nine out of 10 Americans buy or use low-calorie products including sugar-free foods or beverages. Melissa Dobbins is a registered dietitian and a spokesperson for the Illinois Dietetic Association, and she is here today to share some facts on sugars and artificial sweeteners.

Sugars (technically referred to as "nutritive sweeteners") provide calories (energy). Sucrose, or granulated sugar, provides 16 calories per teaspoon. Fructose is another type of sugar found in fruit or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Artificial sweeteners, or sugar substititues, (technically referred to as "non-nutritive sweeteners") don't provide any calories. There are five artificial sweeteners that have FDA approval and are regulated as food additives: Acesulfame-K, Aspartame, Neotame, Saccharin and Sucralose. Extensive testing is done to determine the safety of these products.

The three most common:

  • Aspartame (Equal): Approved in over 100 nations and most commonly found in soft drinks. Some people report allergic symptoms, but research hasn't been able to find a connection.
  • Sucralose (Splenda): The most heat stable of all sweeteners and therefore good for baking.
  • Saccharin (Sweet-n-low): Was removed from National Institutes of Health list of potential carcinogens in 2000.

Sugar alcohols are another type of sugar substitute. They provide fewer calories that sugar. Some examples are: sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and can be found in sugar-free gum or cookies.

How do various sugar-sweetened beverages compare? Compare the added sugar in various beverages:

  • 100% orange juice = 0* (PROVIDES: VITAMIN C)
  • Fruit punch = 6 teaspoons (96 calories)
  • Plain milk = 0 (PROVIDES: PROTEIN, VITAMIN A, VITAMIN D, CALCIUM)
  • Chocolate milk = 3 teaspoons (48 calories) (PROVIDES: PROTEIN, VITAMIN A, VITAMIN D, CALCIUM)
  • Diet cola = 0
  • 12 oz regular cola = 9 teaspoons (144 calories)
  • 20 oz regular cola = 15 teaspoons (240 calories)
  • 32 oz regular cola = 24 teaspoons (384 calories)
  • Sports drink = 9 teaspoons (144 calories)
  • 12 oz Frappuccino = 7 teaspoons (112 calories)
  • *It is important to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics has the following recommendations for juice intake: no more than 4-6 ounces per day for 1-6 year olds, and no more than 8-12 ounces per day for 7-18 year olds.

    Research shows that children who drink flavored milk meet more of their nutrient needs; do not consume more added sugar, fat or calories; and are not heavier than non-milk drinkers.

    In a recent statement, leading health and nutrition organizations including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association and School Nutrition Association recognize the valuable role that milk, including flavored milk, can play in meeting daily nutrient needs, and helping kids get the 3 daily servings of milk recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Consistent with the Dietary Guidelines, all recognize that the small amount of added sugar in flavored milk is an acceptable trade-off for the nutrients provided.

    According to the American Dietetic Association, research does not show that sugars by themselves cause obesity or diabetes, or that sugars or artificial sweeteners cause behavioral disorders. However, it is well documented that sugars do contribute to dental cavities, and clearly, excess calorie intake from sugars can lead to weight gain. Artificial sweeteners could assist with weight management if a person's total caloric intake is reduced. As always, moderation is recommended and getting the most nutrients out of your calories every day by choosing nutrient rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy.

    For more information on sugars, sweeteners or healthful eating, visit eatright.org

    For more information on nutrient-rich foods visit nutrientrichfoods.org


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