Non-nutritive sweeteners have pros, cons

Mary Ann Van Osdell, May, Sandra  |  1/4/2011 1:15:38 AM

News Release Distributed 04/13/10

There are pros and cons in nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners, but one thing is for sure – the American Dietetic Association says diet quality suffers when a person consumes nutritive sweeteners in excess of 25 percent of total energy.

Consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners when they’re consumed in a diet that is guided by the current federal nutrition recommendations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary Reference Intakes, as well as individual health goals, said Sandra May, manager of the LSU AgCenter Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.

Sugar and other sweeteners such as fructose, dextrose, honey, corn syrup and concentrated fruit juices are called nutritive sweeteners, she said.

Nutritive sweeteners add energy – calories – to the diet, and non-nutritive sweeteners don’t add energy, May explained.

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved five non-nutritive sweeteners – saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame-K, sucralose and the latest, stevia. These are found in the commercial products Sweet ‘N Low, Equal and Splenda.

Four other products are waiting approval, May said.

She said benefits of using non-nutritive sweeteners include a pleasurable, sweet taste without increasing energy intake. They do not increase cavities, do not affect blood sugars, decrease the calorie content of foods and can be used to replace sugar in some cooking and baking.

Cons include a possible aftertaste, unknown affects in excess of the Accepted Daily Intake (ADI) and limited research on safety during pregnancy.

For example, saccharin crosses the placenta and may remain in fetal tissue, May said.

The ADI varies between 5 and 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, depending on the sweetener, she explained.

May suggests consulting with your dietitian or physician if you have a concern about sweeteners.

Most general-purpose sweeteners have been proven to be safe for young children, but May advises looking for a warning label if you have phenylketonuria because aspartame is dangerous for those with that genetic disorder.

Mary Ann Van Osdell

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