Sugar substitutes and their effect on the body

Sugar substitutes

One of the reasons for being overweight is the excessive consumption of simple sugars, including regular sugar. Excess sugar promotes the release of a significant amount of insulin, which enhances the formation of fat from carbohydrates and their accumulation in fatty tissue. For a balanced diet, an adult is recommended about 75 g of sugar per day (28 kg per year). However, the average sugar consumption is much higher – 125 g per day (about 45 kg per year). Many sweets consume much more sugar. In this case, a sugar substitute will work for them. Consider in more detail the types of substitutes below.

Synthetic sweeteners

When it is necessary to limit the amount of sugar in the diet, synthetic sweeteners are often used.


One of the earliest synthetic sweeteners is saccharin. In 1879, chemist K. Fahlberg accidentally discovered that sulfobenzoic acid has an intensely sweet taste. Soon, this substance and its derivatives began to be used as a sugar substitute. The commonly used sweetener is sodium sulfobenzoate in tablets – saccharin, which is 300-550 times sweeter than sugar. The advantage of saccharin is the simplicity of its synthesis and low production costs. Saccharin is used to sweeten foods with a tendency to obesity, heart and vascular disease, and diabetes. Saccharin has a bitter taste, which limits its use in the food industry.

A hundred years after the discovery of saccharin, its safety came under suspicion. It was found that if laboratory rats for some time add the carcinogen methylnitromourea to their food in quantities that are considered safe, and then feed them a very large amount of saccharin (for humans it would correspond to a kilogram per day for several years), in rats the likelihood of developing bladder cancer increases. Now the use of saccharin is prohibited in many countries, although data on any negative impact on human health have not been obtained.

In 1937, a new group of sweeteners was discovered – cyclomates, derivatives of aminosulfonic acid. Since the beginning of the 50s of the last century, they have been used as sugar substitutes. Cyclomats are 30 times sweeter than sucrose and have no off-flavor.

In experimental animals, long-term consumption of high doses of cyclomats increases the likelihood of bladder cancer, but long-term trials have not shown any harmful effects on health when consumed in quantities much higher than possible consumption as a sugar substitute. Currently, cyclomats are approved for use in most countries. They are not recommended for children and pregnant and lactating women.



Acetsulfame, discovered in 1973, has a pleasant sweet taste and is highly soluble in water. Its taste does not change in sour drinks. It is added to hot and cold drinks, flour products and dairy products. Acetsulfame is used in the manufacture of toothpastes, chewing gums, lotions, and pharmaceuticals.

Acetsulfame is non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, does not cause mutations and the birth of freaks, even in laboratory animals that have been receiving it in huge quantities for a long time. It is not absorbed in the human body and is excreted in the urine in its original form, does not accumulate even with constant use.



Aspartame, one of the derivatives of the essential amino acid alanine, also tastes sweet. This drug was discovered in 1969. A slight addition of aspartame to saccharin completely suppresses its unpleasant taste. When aspartame is combined with sucrose, glucose, cyclomates and saccharin, the resulting mixture becomes sweeter than its individual components. In the digestive tract, aspartame breaks down like food proteins, forming two amino acids – asparagine and phenylalanine. Unlike sugar, it does not contribute to the development of caries, as it is “inedible” for bacteria in the oral cavity. Aspartame is used to sweeten food – cream, ice cream. For products that are cooked and then stored for a long time, it is impractical to use aspartame, since it partially decomposes into unsweetened amino acids. Aspartame is non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, has no side effects on the body, except that sometimes it can cause allergic reactions. Aspartame is not used for obesity and body weight correction, as it can increase appetite.

In 1968 it was found that derivatives of another amino acid, tryptophan, have a sweet taste, 25-50 times more pronounced than that of sucrose. However, there is no data in the literature on their toxicological properties and on their use as additives to food products.

As sweeteners, pentahydric alcohol – xylitol and hexatomic alcohol – sorbitol, which are similar in structure to carbohydrates, are often used.


Xylitol (sugar substitute) is a white crystalline substance, it has the same sweetness and calorie content as sucrose (4 kcal per 1 g). Unlike sugars, xylitol does not raise blood glucose levels; on the contrary, it helps to lower them. This allows xylitol to be used for diabetes, obesity and body weight correction. Xylitol acts as a choleretic and laxative, therefore its daily dose should not be higher than 40 g. In case of severe side effects, the dose is reduced to 20 g.



Sorbitol (sugar substitute) is a colorless crystal with a sweet taste. It is found in the fruits of mountain ash and some fruits. In the process of digestion, sorbitol turns into fructose, the calorie content of sorbitol is 3.4 kcal per 1 g. It has a choleretic and laxative effect, less pronounced than that of xylitol. To avoid side effects, the daily dose of sorbitol should not be more than 25-50 g.


Fructose – fruit sugar – is much sweeter than sucrose, about 1.7 times, which allows you to reduce the amount of carbohydrates in the diet. Fructose does not promote tooth decay and causes blood sugar to rise 3 times slower than glucose. The calorie content of fructose is the same as that of glucose (4 kcal / g), so fructose is not as effective as synthetic sweeteners in correcting body weight.


Saccharin, cyclomates, aspartame, acetsulfame, as well as their mixtures, have various trade names: slastilin, sucrasit, sweetly, suoli, tsukli, moka sweet, sucrodite, surel, hermesetaz, milford, ikwel. All of them, except aspartame, are hot workable.


A widely used sweetener called Tsukli is a mixture of sodium cyclomate and saccharin. Its sweetness is 30 times higher than that of sugar. Cyclomat eliminates the bitter taste of saccharin. This sweetener is available in tablets and in solution. One tablet (0.1 g) corresponds in sweetness to one teaspoon of sugar. This sweetener does not degrade during cooking and storage of food. It is indicated for diabetes, fasting diet, body weight correction; not recommended for children and pregnant and lactating women.

Despite the significant number of natural and synthesized sweeteners, the search for new sweeteners continues as no equivalent sugar substitute has yet been found.

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