Vol. 1, #16
November 13, 2004

Q: What are the good and bad sweetners? - Layperson

A: Use the charts below as a guideline:

Healthy Sweetener Use Guide

Sweeteners to Use
Sweeteners to Avoid
Stevia * Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Canderel)
Barley Malt Neotame
Evaporated Cane Juice Sucralose (Splenda)
Fruit Juice Acesulfame-K (Sunette, Sweet & Safe, Sweet One)
Rice Syrup Cyclamates
Honey Saccharin
Licorice Root (small amounts) Refined Sugar #
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) High Fructose Sweeteners #
Amasake ...
Vegetable Glycerin ...
Sugar Alcohols (xylitol, sorbitol) ^ ...
Maple Syrup (Without Added Sugar) ...
* Safe for Diabetics # Can Be Used in Very Small Amounts
While Transitioning to Healthier Sweeteners
^ Use in Small Amounts
Avoid if you have bowel disease

Note: Many diabetics can use some amount of healthy caloric sweeteners such as evaporated cane juice check with your healthcare practitioner for more information.

Other Sweeteners (Diabetic-Safe, Low-Carb)

In addition to stevia, there are other natural sweeteners that are used by diabetics and persons eating a low carbohydrate diet. Two such sweeteners include:

  • Lo Han Fruit Extract (SlimSweet, SugarNot)
  • R.W. Knudsen Diet Spritzers sweetened with Lo Han Concentrate (Order at your local natural foods store.)
  • Ki-Sweet

    Relative Sweetness Scale - Sucrose = 100







     High Fructose Corn Syrup










    Relative Sweetness Scale - Sucrose = 1




     300 X


     30 X


     180 X


     200 X


    600 X

    Discovery of Non-Carbohydrate Sweetners:

    Saccharin was discovered in 1879 by Constantine Fahlberg, while working in the laboratory of Ira Remsen, quite by accident as were most other sweetners. While working in the lab, he spilled a chemical on his hand. Later while eating dinner, Fahlberg noticed a more sweetness in the bread he was eating. He traced the sweetness back to the chemical, later named saccharin, by tasting various residues on his hands and clothes (unsanitary conditions) and finally chemicals in the lab (not a safe lab practice).

    By 1907, saccharin was used as a replacement for sugar in foods for diabetics. Since it is not metabolized in the body for energy, saccharin is classified as a noncaloric sweetner. By the 1960s it was used on a massive scale in the "diet" soft drink industry.


    Aspartame: In 1965, Jim Schlatter, a chemist at G.D. Searle was working on a on a project to discover new treatments for gastric ulcers. One of the steps in the research process was to make a dipeptide intermediate, aspartyl-phenylalanine methyl ester. He accidently and unknownly spilled some on his hand. Later he licked his finger as he reached for a piece of paper (unsanitary lab technique), and noticed the sweet taste. He and a friend decided to test some in coffee and confirmed the identify of the chemical with the sweet taste. The result was the sweetner, aspartame.

    If a person suffers from phenylketonuria, aspartame shold be avoided.

    Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a genetic disorder that is characterized by an inability of the body to utilize the essential amino acid, phenylalanine.  Amino acids are the building blocks for body proteins.  'Essential' amino acids  can only be obtained from the food we eat as our body does not normally produce them.  In 'classic PKU', the enzyme that breaks down phenylalanine -phenylalanine hydroxylase, is completely or nearly completely deficient.  This enzyme normally converts phenylalanine to another amino acid, tyrosine.  Without this enzyme, phenylalanine and its'  breakdown chemicals from other enzyme routes, accumulate in the blood and body tissues.  Although the term 'hyperphenylalaninemia' strictly means elevated blood phenylalanine, it is usually used to describe a group of disorders other than classic PKU. These other disorders may be caused by a partial deficiency of the phenylalanine breakdown enzyme or the lack of another enzyme important to the processing of this amino acid. A normal blood phenylalanine level is about 1 mg/dl. In classic PKU, levels may range from 6 to 80mg/dl, but are usually greater than 30mg/dl. Levels are somewhat less in the other disorders of hyperphenylalaninemia. Chronically high levels of phenylalanine and some of its breakdown products can cause significant neurological problems, especially of the brain. Classic PKU is the most common cause of high levels of phenylalanine in the blood. In healthy individuals not suffering from Phenylketonuria, a byproduct of aspartame degredation, is aspartic acid, formaldehyde, and methanol(wood alcohol), of which formaldehyde and methanol are carcinogenic ( cause cancer and precancerous cell changes and are neurotoxic(kill or incapacitate nerve cells). Although no definite link has been shown to cancer, cancer cells have higher than normal level of phenyalanine and if deprived of phenylalinine, will die.

    Phenylalanine is found naturally in foods such as eggs, milk, bananas, and meat. If a person is PKU (Phenylketonuric) or sensitive to phenylalanine, you will react to the phenylalanine in aspartame. You may want to get a blood test to check for this condition. Over the past 20 years, humans have become more aware of PKU reactions because human beings began using isolated phenylalanine to the degree it is harmful to some individuals, many as aspartame side effects. 

    Cyclamate: Michael Sveda, while a graduate student at the University of Illinois, discovered cyclamate by smoking a cigarette. While working on the synthesis of anti-pyretic (anti-fever) drugs in the laboratory in 1937, he put his cigarette down on the lab bench. When he put it back in his mouth, he discovered the sweet taste of cyclamate (unsanitary lab technique).

    Acesulfame was discovered by another chemist, Karl Clauss, in 1967. He noticed a sweet taste when he licked his finger to pick up a piece of paper (unsanitary lab technique).

    Sucralose may have the strangest "accidental discovery" story. Tate Lyle, a British sugar company, was looking for ways to use sucrose as a chemical intermediate. Halogenated sugars were being synthesized and tested. A foreign graduate student, Shashikant Phadnis, misunderstood a request for "testing" of a chlorinated sugar as a request for "tasting," leading to the discovery that many chlorinated sugars are sweet with potencies some hundreds or thousands of times as great as sucrose. Substituting three chlorine ions for hydroxyl groups on an ordinary sucrose molecule makes Sucralose.

    The artificial sweetners tend to cause an insulin spike with no sugar to counter it and may cause problems for diabetics.Other diabetics will suffer increased sugar levels through routes other than dietary means, such as when the liver is signaled to release sugar stored as glycogen, thereby, spiking sugar levels.

    November 6, 2004 Newsletter

    DISCLAIMER:  The information in this column, is NOT intended to diagnose and/or treat any health related issues and is provided solely for informational purposes only. Consult the appropriate healthcare professional before making any changes to your healthcare regime. Even what may seem like simple changes in the diet for example, can interact with, and alter, the efficiency of medications and/or the body's response to the medications. Many herbs and supplements exert powerful medicinal effects. Neither the author, nor the website designers, assume any responsibility for the reader's use or misuse of this information.

    © 2002 Nature's Corner