Friday, March 8, 2013

Sweet Endings

Continuing my series on sweeteners, here is the last installment discussing neotame, agave, xylitol and sorbitol.

Neotame is an artificial sweetener made by adding 3,3-dimethylbutyraldehyde to aspartame.  It is much sweeter than aspartame so much less is needed.  There is less research done regarding the side effects of neotame, but given that it is made from aspartame the same caution should be used.  I would advise avoiding its consumption all together.  On ingredient labels, neotame can be listed as 961.

Agave syrup is a natural sweetener from the necter of the agave plant.  It is sweeter than honey and has a thinner consistency.  It is about 1.5 times sweeter than sugar but has a lower glycemic index and glycemic load.  It can be used in baking however recipes would have to be adjusted.  There are cookbooks available with recipes for agave.  The only down side to agave is that it is high in fructose so excessive consumption can trigger fructose mal­-absorption, metabolic syndrome or other fructose related issues.  Although you would have to consume a lot of agave syrup for this to happen.

Xylitol can be found in some sugar free chewing gums and candies.  It is found naturally in some fruits and vegetables although it is usually extracted for commercial use from hardwood or corn.  Xylitol can improve dental health, clear nasal passages and prevent ear infections.  It does this by preventing bacteria from sticking to teeth and nasal passages.  In addition to this, bacteria can’t digest xylitol like it does sugar, so it doesn’t grow.  It also has a very low glycemic index of 7 (sugar is 100).  Unfortunately it can cause diarrhea and gas.  I suspect this is because it is having an effect on the good bacteria in your gut not just the bad bacteria.  Although it is a natural sugar a chemical process is used to extract it.   If you are going to consume xylitol I would keep the dose low, watch closely for any side effects and if you develop any stop consuming it immediately.

Sorbitol is used as a sweetener in chewing gum, diet drinks, ice cream, mints, cough syrup and toothpaste.  It is also used as a thickener.  It is found naturally in apples, pears, peaches and prunes and synthesized from glucose. It is used as a diet sweetener because it has fewer calories than sugar but it also has half the sweetness.  It is used medically as a laxative with side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps and gas, so caution should be used if consuming it as a sweetener in large doses.

This is the end of the series on sweeteners.  Check back in a couple weeks for my next article.

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Dr. Mercola
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Natural News
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NineMSN Food
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PubChem Compound
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Accessed 2 March 2013