What are low calorie sweeteners?


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What are low calorie sweeteners?Low calorie sweeteners are substances added to foods and drinks to provide sweet taste without calories, or with very few calories. Most low calorie sweeteners are several hundred times sweeter than table sugar, meaning that only small quantities need to be added to achieve a sweetening effect.

Low calorie sweeteners are used in a variety of food and drink products including:

  • soft drinks
  • chewing gum
  • confectionery
  • frozen desserts
  • yoghurts
  • dessert mixes
  • puddings

 

They are also widely used in healthcare, making many medicines more palatable. Low calorie sweeteners are clearly labelled on the packaging of food, healthcare and drink products that contain them.

They can play an important role in achieving and maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle. Low calorie sweeteners enable us to increase the palatability of healthy and low calorie foods and to enjoy the same level of sweetness as with products containing sugar, without the equivalent calories. If used consistently to reduce calories, they can act as an aid to weight reduction, weight maintenance and oral health.

Furthermore, as low calorie sweeteners do not affect insulin levels, they may be used to provide sweet-tasting foods and drinks for people who must carefully monitor carbohydrate intake, such as those with diabetes.

The science

Low calorie sweeteners have been safely used and enjoyed by consumers all over the world for more than a century. The first commonly used low calorie sweetener, saccharin, was discovered in 1879. Since then, a number of other low calorie sweeteners, including acesulfame K (ace-K), aspartame, cyclamate and sucralose, have been discovered and are now in widespread use worldwide.

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Does low calorie sweetener consumption affect energy intake and body weight?

Prof Peter Rogers takes us through the results of his review published in the International Journal of Obesity in November 2015. The review looked at the effect of low calorie sweeteners’ exposure on calorie intake and body weight. The results indicate that the use of low calorie sweetened beverages leads to reduced energy intake and body weight, and possibly also when compared with water.