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From Irvine, California, USA:

Does the body treat sugar substitutes just like sugar?


No, it does not. However, most of the tabletop sugar substitute products, whether packets or granular, contain some carbohydrate based bulking ingredient like maltodextrin, dextrose, etc. These are broken down by the body just as any other source of carbohydrate.

In my book, The Real-Life Guide to Diabetes, I have included some information on the five FDA-approved no calories sweeteners, acesulfame potassium (common brand name Sunette, aspartame (NutraSweet), neotame, saccharin (Sweet'n Low), and sucralose (Splenda). These sweeteners have all undergone rigorous research (through the FDA food additive approval process) and have been shown to be safe for all Americans to use, including people with diabetes and women who are pregnant.

The main no-calories sweeteners used today in many foods and beverages are aspartame and sucralose. They are also available in packets or as granular products to use like sugar for sweetening foods or for cooking and baking. These sugar substitutes contain almost no calories or carbohydrate and don't raise blood glucose. As long as you don't use more than ten packets or teaspoons a day, you don't need to be concerned with these few calories and grams of carbohydrate. Sugar substitutes can help you greatly lower the carbohydrate and calories you eat.

Stevia is currently categorized as a dietary supplement. Dietary supplements are not required to go through the same intensive research and FDA approval as some sugar substitutes. Stevia has gone through the FDA's Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) process. Furthermore, the FDA's decision on stevia only applies to the highly purified form known as rebaudioside A. It’s also worth noting that there are two more GRAS notices pending at FDA for rebaudioside-A. As with other non-nutritive sweeteners, PureVia, Truvia and Stevia in the Raw have been incorporated into tabletop sweeteners. PureVia comes in stick packets that contain (in order on the ingredients): erythritol, isomaltulose, reb-A, cellulose powder, and natural flavors. Each stick contains the sweetness of two teaspoons of sugar. Truvia comes in packets and contains (in order on the ingredients): erythritol, rebiana, natural flavors. Each packet contains the sweetness of two teaspoons of sugar which is common. Stevia in the Raw comes in packets and contains dextrose, not erythritol. (Note: erythritol is a sugar alcohol.) McNeil Nutrtionals has also recently developed Sun Crystals, a combination of stevia and pure cane sugar, but I have no experience with this.

Sugar alcohols are a group of ingredients commonly used in sugar-free foods. Interestingly, they're not sugar or alcohol, but are carbohydrate-based ingredients that contain half the calories of sugar on average (2 calories versus 4 calories per gram). Polyols can replace sugar in foods like candy, cookies, and ice creams. Polyols contain about half the calories of sugar because they aren't completely digested. A downside of polyols is that they can cause gas, cramps, and/or diarrhea in some people in large amounts. Replacing sugars with polyols can cause a lower rise in blood glucose than with regularly sweetened foods; however, people don't tend to use these foods frequently enough to result in a significant lowering of calorie or carbohydrate intake or blood glucose. The calories and grams of carbohydrate per serving of sugar-free foods sweetened with polyols often are only minimally reduced.


Original posting 8 Jun 2009
Posted to Meal Planning, Food and Diet


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:10:18
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