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Sweeteners

What are sweeteners?

Sweeteners are substances added to foods in order to make them sweet.

Sweeteners Classification

By chemical composition:

  • Sugars: glucose, sucrose and other substances ending with -ose
  • Sugar alcohols: maltitol, sorbitol and other substances ending with -ol
  • Other carbohydrates: fructooligosaccharides (FOS), isomaltooligosaccharides (IMO), inulin, maltodextrin
  • Mixtures of the above substances, such as agave syrup, brown rice syrup, etc.
  • Other

By calorie content:

  • Nutritive sweeteners are those that contain calories: sucrose, sorbitol and most other carbohydrate sweeteners.
  • Non-nutritive sweeteners are those that contain no or very little calories: erythritol, stevia, aspartame, etc.

By production:

  • Natural sweeteners, such as sucrose or stevia, are extracted from plants and added to other foods.
  • Semi-artificial sweeteners are extracted from plants, chemically changed and added to foods. For example, xylitol is produced from the sugar xylose, which is obtained from birch wood.
  • Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin, are chemically produced.

All non-sugar sweeteners are called sugar substitutes.

Chart 1. List of Sweeteners

Relative Sweetness
(sucrose = 1)
Calories
per gram
Glycemic Index
NUTRITIVE SWEETENERS
Agave syrup (56-92% fructose + glucose + water) 1.4 [15] 3.1 [17] 11-15 [1,15]
Barley malt syrup (65% maltose + other sugars + water) 0.5 [15] 3.2 [18] 42 [15]
Brown rice syrup (~52% maltotriose + 45% maltose + 3% glucose + water) 0.5 [15] 2.6 [21] 25-98 [15]
Brown sugar (sucrose + molasses) 1 [15] 3.9 65 [15]
Coconut (palm) sugar (80% sucrose + glucose + fructose) 0.9 [15] 4 35 [15]
Corn syrup, dark (20-98% glucose + water) 0.3 [6] 1-4 90 (30 g) [1]
Corn syrup solids (~98% glucose) 0.3 [6] ~3.8
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS, oligofructose) 0.4 2.7 [27]
Fructose (fruit sugar) 1.2-1.8 3.6 11
Galactose 0.3 4.1
Glucose (dextrose, grape sugar) 0.7 3.8 100
Glycerol (glycerin, glycerine) [E422]* 0.8 4.3
Glycyrrhizin [E958] 50 [3] “few” [2]
Golden syrup, light treacle (44% sucrose + 27% glucose + 27% fructose + water) 3.2 [22]
High fructose corn syrup HFCS-42 (32% fructose + 40% glucose + other sugars + 29% water) [25] 0.9 [6] 2.6 [23,25]
High fructose corn syrup HFSC-55 (42% fructose + 32% glucose + other sugars + 23% water) [25] 1.1 [6] 2.8 [23]
High maltose corn syrup HMCS-65 (80% maltose + 20% water) 0.5 3.2 [24]
Honey (70% fructose/glucose + sucrose + maltose… + water) 1 [11] 3 [26] 31-87 [1,15]
Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates (HSH) 0.3 [14] 3 [14]
Inulin 0.5 [12] 2.7 [27]
Invert sugar 0.8 [6] 3.1 [28]
Isomalt [E953] 0.5 [13,14] 2 [14] 2 [1]
Isomaltooligosaccharides (IMO) 0.6 <2
Isomaltose 2 low
Isomaltulose 0.4 4 32-37 [1]
Jaggery or cane sugar (sucrose + invert sugar + water) 0.9 [15] ~3 35 [15]
Lactitol [E966] 0.4 [14] 2 5
Lactose (milk sugar) 0.2 3.9 48
Maltitol [E965] 0.7 [14] 2.1 45
Maltose (malt sugar) 0.5 4 105
Maltodextrin 0.1 [6] 4 80-120
Mannitol [E421] 0.6 1.6 0
Mannose 2.7 [16]
Maple syrup (66% sucrose + other sugars + 33% water) 0.6 2.6 [19] 54 [1,15]
Molasses, black treacle (~50% sucrose + glucose + fructose) 0.9 [11,15] ~4 55 [15]
Sorbitol (glucitol) [E420] 0.6 2.6 9
Sorghum syrup (46% sucrose + 16% glucose + 13% fructose + 23% water) 1 [15] 2.9 [20] 50 [15]
Sucrose (table sugar, saccharose) 1 3.9 60 (25 g)
Tagatose 0.8 2 3
Trehalose 0.5 4 72
Trehalulose 0.6 4
Xylitol [E967] 1 2.4 12
Xylose 0.5 2.4 low
Yacon syrup 1.3 [29]
NON-NUTRITIVE SWEETENERS
Acesulfame potassium (Ace K) [E950] 200 [6,8] 0 0
Advantame 20,000 [8] 0 0
Alitame [E956] 2,000 [9] 0 0
Aspartame [E951] 180 [6,8] 0 0
Cyclamate [E952] 30 [7] 0 0
Erythritol [E968] 0.7 [14] 0.2 0
Luo Han Guo (mogrosides) 200 [8] 0 0
Neohesperidin DC [E959] 340 [10] 0 0
Neotame [E961] 10,000 [8] 0 0
Saccharin [E954] 400 [7,8] 0 0
Sucralose [E955] 600 [7,8] 0 0
Stevia [E960] 300 [4,8] 0 0
Thaumatin [E957] 200 [5] 4** 0

Chart 1 source: glycemicindex.com [1]
* [E***] is the “E-number,” the code for food additives used on food labels in Europe.
**Thaumatin is a protein, which contains 4 Calories per gram, but a single dose used for sweetening is so small that contains practically no calories.

Common artificial sweeteners used in the Western world are: acesulfame potassium, aspartame, erythritol, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), isomalt, isomaltose, lactitol, maltitol, maltodextrin, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, saccharin, sucralose and trehalose.

  1. Glycemicindex.com
  2. Karaoğul E et al, 2016, Enrichment of the Glycyrrhizic Acid from Licorice Roots (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) by Isoelectric Focused Adsorptive Bubble Chromatography PubMed Central
  3. Glycyrrhizin The Sweetener Book
  4. Stevia The Sweetener Book
  5. Thaumatin The Sweetener Book
  6. Relative Sweetness Values for Various Sweeteners Owlsoft.com
  7. Sweeteners – Introduction Elmhurst College
  8. Additional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for use in Food in the United States The US Food and Drug Administration
  9. Alitame INCHEM.org
  10. Neospheridin dihidrochalcone Neospheridin-dc.com
  11. Food ingredients Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
  12. Hamaker BR, 2008, Technology of Functional Cereal Products, p. 420
  13. Isomalt PubChem
  14. Sugar Alcohols Fact Sheet Food Insight
  15. Sweetening agents NorthShield.org
  16. D-mannose nutrition facts Fatsecret.com
  17. Sweetener, syrup, agave US Department of Agriculture
  18. Syrups, malt US Department of Agriculture
  19. Syrups, maple US Department of Agriculture
  20. Syrups, sorghum US Department of Agriculture
  21. Calories in Organic Sweet Dreams Rice Syrup Calorie Count
  22. Calories in Lyle’s golden syrup Calorie Count
  23. Syrups, corn, high fructose US Department of Agriculture
  24. Satin Sweet® 65% High Maltose Corn Syrup Cargill
  25. White JS, 2008, Straight talk about high-fructose corn syrup: what it is and what it ain’t The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  26. Honey US Department of Agriculture
  27. Elia M et al, 2007, Physiological aspects of energy metabolism and gastrointestinal effects of carbohydrates European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  28. Inverted sugar syrup CalorieSlism
  29. Calories in organic Yacon syrup Calorie Count

4 Responses to "Sweeteners"

  1. Ellis says:

    I would really love to see a few pages dedicated to aspartame and stevia! I am trying to do personal research on them and am finding it hard to find solid proof of health benefits/ risks. I find that (especially for aspartame), there are so many different contradicting studies, I don’t know what to believe.

  2. Hanno says:

    Could you tell me where to find the references in the table? I am particularly interested in 6, 7, and 8.

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