Page 0022


So what's it to be, sugar

or sweeteners? With

recent research finding

that fat may not be quite

as unhealthy as we have

been made to believe, sugar has become

the new food enemy. Yet we like to eat

sweet things. And why shouldn't we have

a treat now and again? However, most

of us are eating too much sugar. Sugar

is energy rich and nutrient poor. The only

time it is really necessary is for those with

insulin dependent diabetes who need it to

treat a hypo. Sugar makes up on average

12% of our diet, with the most Britons

consuming 140 teaspoons per week and

it's seen as one of the main causes of the

current obesity epidemic.

Action On Sugar is campaigning

for a 5% recommended maximum, and

the World Health Organisation suggest a

perhaps more realistic 10%. The recent

BBC programme 'The Truth About Sugar'


Deborah Wilder looks at the difference between the sugar and the

alternatives and questions there's a choice at all.

gave a fascinating overview of sugar,

revealing that it's not just biscuits, cakes

and sweets we should be limiting. There

are a lot of hidden sugars in ready meals

and processed foods. The recommended

amount of sugar is 5 teaspoons a day, and

a small serving of baked beans contains

around 3 teaspoons. So it's easy to see

how quickly it adds up. Even supposedly

healthy foods such as cereal bars are very

high sugar - some have as much as 42%.

Which sugar?

Honey, glucose, sucrose, brown sugar,

white sugar? It doesn't matter. There's

almost no difference in the number of

calories. So should we be turning to

artificial sweeteners to satisfy our desire

for sweet things? Are they safe or do they

also pose a threat to our health?

Research into the use of sweeteners

has been mixed. A 2008 study from the

University of California San Diego used

A sugar substitute is a food additive

that provides a sweet taste like that

of sugar while containing significantly

less food energy. Some sugar substitutes are

natural and some are synthetic. Those that are

not natural are,

in general, called artificial sweeteners.

The majority of sugar substitutes

approved for food use are artificially

synthesized compounds. However,

some bulk natural sugar substitutes

are known, including sorbitol and xylitol, which are

found in berries, fruit,

vegetables and mushrooms.

Aspartame is derived from the

two amino acids aspartic acid and

phenylalanine. It is about 200 times

as sweet as sugar and can be used

as a tabletop sweetener or in foods

but when cooked or stored at high

temperatures it breaks down into its

constituent amino acids making it

undesirable as a baking sweetener. It

is more stable in more acidic conditions, such as in soft drinks. Because

it is so intensely sweet, relatively little

of it is needed to sweeten a food

product, so it can be used to reduce

the number of calories in a product.

The safety of aspartame has been

studied extensively since its discovery

in 1965, to the extent that it is one of

A brief guide to some common sweeteners from Wikipedia


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