Sweeter Than Sugar?

Recently, I’ve gotten several letters on a similar theme from viewers of our TV show fowarded to me through our Low Carb CookwoRx website. The recurrent theme involves where we stand on the use of sugar versus artificial sweeteners or on one artificial sweetener versus another. Here’s a typical one:

I like sweets and want to reduce intake. I have tried artificially sweetened products but suffer from constipation and bloating …Is there any way to avoid this or do I have to just reduce regular sugar intake and forget the artificial sweeteners? –MJB

It occurred to me that a number of blog readers have asked similar questions and many others, who haven’t written, might also welcome the information, so here’s my reply:

It’s always been our recommendation that it’s a good thing to curb the sweet tooth, so that one can once again perceive the natural sweetness in foods, such as almonds and snap peas, for instance, that most of us can no longer even recognize as sweet. Continuing to bombard the sweet receptors (taste buds) with high intensity sweetness, whether from sugar or from artificial sweeteners will overwhelm that natural perception ability.

Sugar, of course, has an entire spectrum of metabolic consequences apart from its sweetness: elevated blood sugar, which is itself harmful to the kidney’s filtering apparatus, excess insulin in the blood to counter that elevated blood sugar, which has a Pandora’s box of associated problems. There are a hundred reasons to avoid eating much sugar.

As to artificial sweeteners, they all have their drawbacks: bitter aftertaste, bloating and gas, excitotoxic potential for the brain and nervous system, allergic reactions, etc. In our opinion, for most people, Splenda has the fewest problems, if used in moderation, but there are definitely those people who cannot use it. Of the sugar alcohols, many notorious for unpleasant intestinal side effects, probably erythritol (sold as Z Sweet) and xylitol (sold under a variety of names and in bulk bags in many health food stores) have the fewest of these side effects, if used in moderation. The sweet herb, stevia, and even plain old saccharine don’t have a lot of intestinal side effects, but do have a bitter aftertaste if you use even slightly too much.

The best advice is to find the artificial (or natural in the case of stevia) non-sugar sweetener you tolerate best and don’t use much of it. Bit by bit taper the amount of sweetness you add to foods and let the natural sweetness shine through. Cordially…

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Now, I’ll broaden the educational value of the post a little, to add a short reference glossary of alternative sweeteners. Much of this information comes from an American Association of Cereal Chemists book we have in our library, called Sweeteners: Alternative by Amy L. Nelson (Eagen Press, St. Paul, Minnesota)

Acesulfame K: An accident of chemistry, discovered in 1967 by a Hoechst Company researcher in Germany, who noticed a sweet taste on his fingers, while reacting a couple of chemicals. (As you’ll see from the entries that follow this is how more than a few artificial sweeteners got discovered. There seems to be a pattern among chemists to stick their fingers in their mouths, which, to me, a person with an undergrad combined biology/chemistry major, seems to violate every basic tenant of safe laboratory behavior I ever learned.) Acesulfame potassium, or AceK as we usually call it, is a synthetic, white, crystalline powder about 200 times sweeter than sucrose. Positives include having no demonstrated health risks so far (approved in the US in 1988) and good stability; it’s not thought to decompose and is excreted unchanged from the GI tract. Drawbacks: really no serious ones, except that it is truly ‘artificial’ which, all by itself, is enough to turn some folks off. It’s sold commercially under the name Sunette. We have no problem with its use in moderation, as all sweeteners should be used.

Aspartame: Sold under the brand name NutraSweet, the compound was also an accidental discovery in 1965 by a chemist at Searle & Company. (Another finger sucker, apparently.) It is a synthetic, white, crystalline powder, made of two amino acids (L-aspartic acid and L-phenylalanine) with about 160-220 times the sweetness of sucrose. Positives include a clean taste without metallic bitterness. Drawbacks include its notorious instability in non-acidic aqueous solutions or when heated, at which point it loses its sweetness and potentially becomes toxic. When the molecule disassociates (breaks apart) one potential decomposition compound is methanol or ‘wood alcohol’–the stuff sometimes in moonshine that makes you go blind if you drink it. Just image what could be happening to those aspartame molecules inside all those cans of diet soda in the back of a delivery truck on a sweltering August day in Atlanta. We have personally witnessed a startling array of clinical ills anecdotally attributable to its use, ranging from severe and reproducible stomach cramping to sleeplessness to hives to emotional disturbance to memory loss. There’s some evidence (again, anecdotal) that these potential ills might even be of greater risk to people on a low carb dietary structure. These concerns, in part, are what prompted our reversal of opinion about the sweetener’s safety after writing Protein Power and why we no longer allow any little blue packets in our house. We do not recommend its use!

Cyclamate: Another accidental discovery, in 1937 by a graduate student at the University of Illinois. (This time a ‘coffin nail’ sucker who got his chemically contaminated fingers on his cigarette and noticed the smoke tasted sweet. Yeeaacch!) Cyclamate is a synthetic, white, crystalline powder about 30 times sweeter than sucrose. Drawbacks include: a bitter-tasting breakdown product and questionable health risk. Based on studies in the late 1960s that suggested the product might cause bladder cancer in rats, cyclamate was banned in the US in 1970 never to return. Subsequent studies in the 50 plus countries that didn’t ban the product–and where it is still sold–showed no carcinogenic potential, but its petition for reinstatement in the US still languishes 25 years later.

Erythritol: A naturally occurring sugar alcohol (found in small quantities in mushrooms, pears, melons, grapes and wine) that is produced commercially by fermentation of table sugar (or other sugars) in a process somewhat akin to making yogurt. It’s only about 70% as sweet as sugar but has only a fraction (about 0.2) of a calorie per gram, basically low enough to qualify it as ‘zero calories’. Erythritol is a small molecule, rapidly absorbed by the small intestine, meaning little of it gets to the colon to cause the typical intestinal misery common to other sugar alcohols. On the good side, research has shown that more than 90% of what’s absorbed is excreted unchanged in the urine within 24 hours. (That does beg the question of what happens to the other 10%, but let’s not split hairs.) Positives: Most people feel it has a clean taste. As I do with xylitol, I perceive a slight cold, faintly metallic taste of the straight stuff that disappears to a large extent when it’s added to a food or beverage.

Lo Han Guo: The extract of a Chinese berry, that, when purified into its individual compounds is 300 to 400 times sweeter than sucrose. Used in China for centuries (possibly millennia) it’s a fairly recent entry into the natural alternative sweetener scene. (Proctor and Gamble patented a commercial extraction and purification process in 1995.) To read more about it, click here.

Saccharine (Sweet’n’Low): Discovered, again by accident, in 1878 at a Johns Hopkins University laboratory, saccharine is a synthetic, white, crystalline powder 300-600 times sweeter than sucrose. Drawbacks include: bitter aftertaste and questionable health risk. The substance had been shown in a 1977 Canadian study to cause bladder cancer in male rats fed an amount of saccharine equal on a human scale to that in 800 to 1000 cans of diet soda per day. Subsequent study on humans has failed to show a connection. According to Ms. Nelson’s book, President Theodore Roosevelt, who championed the cause of keeping saccharine available to the American consumer, is said to have remarked:

“Anyone who says saccharin is injurious to health is an idiot!”–Teddy Roosevelt ,1906

Ole Teddy knew how to call a spade a spade.

Sorbitol, Mannitol, and Maltitol: All are sugar alcohols produced by the fermentation of corn, wheat, or potato starch into either a crystalline powder or a syrup. Depending on how the starch is broken down (by which enzymatic reaction and for how long) the same starch can yield any of these sugar alcohols. Glucose converts to sorbitol, mannose to mannitol, and maltose to maltitol. None are as sweet as sugar, though maltitol comes closest at 90%. Positives: they have fewer calories than sugar (about 1.5 to 2.5 per gram versus the 4 per gram in sugar). Drawbacks: All these sugar alcohols cause the notorious intestinal side effects common to the group–intestinal rumbling, gas, bloating, and often diarrhea–if consumed in more than small amounts, which limits their usefulness. Although some food purveyors will completely subtract all grams of any sugar alcohol they use in a product from the carb total, that’s probably not entirely kosher, since some portion of the substance does get absorbed (although there’s no good data on how much of which one to my knowledge) and therefore has to at least count as calories in. Although it’s not double-blind, placebo controlled research data, it’s long been our custom to count sugar alcohols a contributing about a third of a gram of carb per gram of sugar alcohol (or 3 grams for every 10) which serves to curb intake somewhat in people watching their carbs.

Stevia: First extracted in the early 1900s from the leaves of a South American plant, Stevia rebaudiniana, but used as an herb for centuries before that to sweeten bitter medicines. The leaves are about 30 times sweeter than sucrose and the purified extract (the stuff sold in little green packets in stores nowadays) is about 200 times sweeter. Positives include its natural origins and purported safety demonstrated by its lengthy use in folk medicine. Drawbacks include its bitter afterbite, which make it difficult to cook with, since just enough to make a dish properly sweet is a molecule away from the too much that makes it bitter. A good Stevia cookbook is a worthwhile purchase for anyone wanting to use this product to sweeten. Stevia extract has not received GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status from the FDA (for who knows what reasons, but cherchez l’argent if you ask me) and, therefore, can only be sold as a dietary supplement, not a sweetener. Go figger.

Sucralose (Splenda): One of the few artificial sweeteners actually developed on purpose (by researchers at Queen Elizabeth College in London) sucralose is a synthetic compound made directly from the sugar molecule by selectively replacing three hydroxyl (-OH) groups with chlorine (-Cl) molecules to produce a substance about 400 to 800 times sweeter than the molecule it came from, sucrose. Positives include its clean taste, stability both in solutions across a wide range of pH values and at high temperatures. Additionally, it is minimally metabolized, being mostly excreted in the stool, unchanged–ie with all its added chlorine molecules still bound in their positions, not wandering around in the body somewhere as some alarmists would have you believe. To date, we have seen no credible evidence (either with our own eyes or in published controlled studies) to indict this sweetener as a health risk. As always, our minds will stay open and if such information becomes available and has merit, we will adjust our recommendations accordingly. For now, for us, sucralose in its little yellow packets or in bulk packages is fine, used in moderation as all sweeteners should be.

Tagatose: Derived from the milk sugar, lactose, this sweetener is slightly less sweet than sucrose (about 92% so). Positives include having only 1.5 calories per gram versus 4 for table sugar and honey (so although not no calorie, it’s low calorie), not rotting your teeth, and exerting a pre-biotic effect in the gut by stimulating the cells of the colon to crank up their production of butyrate (a short chain fatty acid) that helps nourish both the colonocytes and the friendly bacteria there. Drawbacks: Makers suggest that it is metabolized in a manner similar to fructose (which might not be a good thing) but is only partially absorbed. About 15 to 20% is absorbed and the balance flows on downstream to cause all the same intestinal effects as other partially absorbable carbohydrates–namely, gas, bloating, and diarrhea–if used to excess. Marketed in the US in a product called Shugr.

Xylitol: A sugar alcohol, derived from xylan (a complex sugar chain, sort of like cellulose, which is found in corncobs, straw, almond shells, and birch bark) which is then broken down into individual units of a simple sugar, called xylose, which is then hydrogenated to make xylitol. Positives are that it has a sweetness exactly equal to sugar (but only half the calories) and so measures exactly like sugar spoon for spoon, making for easy recipe conversion. Additionally, there are a pretty good number of research studies that point to its actually being of some health benefit for preventing cavities and ear infections in children. Drawbacks: from my own use, I noted typical intestinal side effects of sugar alcohols, such as gas, bloating, rumbling, and diarrhea, although some people aver less misery with it than with other sugar alcohols, except, perhaps, erythritol. Additionally, I am able to perceive a slight cold, faintly metallic quality to its taste, although other people describe it as a clean taste. Once only found in chewing gum, so in small amounts in the diet, it’s now being manufactured in bulk and in individual single serving packets. If you tolerate using it, and many people do, it’s probably among the least offensive of the sugar alcohols.

I should note that all the high-intensity sweeteners (those with sweetness hundreds of times greater than sucrose) require a bulking agent to be used. Most of what’s in the little packets of any color is the bulking agent, most often maltodextrin. There is currently great debate about whether the maltodextrin forms used for this purpose are an absorbable carb or not. The half a gram or so attributed to packets of sucralose, stevia, or saccharine come from the maltodextrin and we’ve always counted them into the total carb count. If it turned out that, like fiber, they went unabsorbed entirely, that would be an added benefit. Time will tell.

So, there it is. A glossary of the compounds sweeter than sugar. If you choose to use…Caveat emptor!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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28 thoughts on “Sweeter Than Sugar?

  1. It could just be placebo but Splenda gives me a tight feeling in my head or a headache. I use stevia and saccharin together, which seems to work much better than either alone.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: My point, precisely. There will be some people who don’t, for whatever reason, tolerate every single one of the sweetener options. Thus…pick the one(s) that you tolerate (as you have clearly already done, congratulations!) and use them in moderation.

  2. A lot of low carbers are using the Splenda Quick Packs to avoid the extra bulking agent in regular Splenda granular and packets. It is found near the packaged Kool-Aid type drink mixes or in the baking aisle.

    One Quick Pack is the equivalent of one cup of sugar and amounts to only 3.3 carbs. 1/8 of a tsp. = 1/8 cup sweetener.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: I must confess I’ve never even heard of these. I’ll have to take a look.

  3. Kinda disconcerting that some of these things are made from “garbage”, it corn cobs, almond shells, and tree bark!

    How about oligofructose?

    COMMENT from MD EADES: FOS, which is perfectly lovely sweetish fiber, that is reputed to be good for the gut and be pro-biotic, isn’t usually used solo as sweetener, to my knowledge, although perhaps it is. I’ve only ever seen FOS added to alternative sweetener products, such as Stevia, and as an adjunctive sweetener in a few food products, such as the GoLower bars.

    I don’t really consider those things “garbage” just because they’re not readily edible. They’re useful if properly worked. After all, salycylic acid (aspirin) was but an extract of white willow bark originally.

  4. Isn’t xylitol the stuff that will kill dogs? Kind of makes me nervous to eat something with that track record.

    COMMENTS from MD EADES: I don’t know that xylitol is stuff that will kill dogs, but that’s entirely possible. Chocolate will also kill dogs, but not humans, and I’m not about to give up chocolate.

  5. Based on all the people you have seen, what is “moderation”? And what is not moderation, that is, a person overdoing it?

    sweeteners with every meal?
    once a day?
    once a week?
    increasing tolerance?

    COMMENT from MD EADES: In our years of practice, we’ve seen intakes that run the gamut, from never use them to a lady I recall who drank 1 gallon of artificially sweetened tea (in the days before Splenda, so she was using Equal) and multiple servings of sugar-free (again Equal) Jell-o every day. Needless to say, that’s not moderation and she had memory loss, brain fog, sleep disturbances, etc from it before we figured out what she was doing.

    Day in and day out, we don’t use a lot of artificial sweeteners of any kind. We don’t sweeten our coffee or tea and may add a half packet of Splenda to a vinaigrette sometimes or lightly sprinkle 1/2 packet onto berries if they’re on the mouth-puckering side. I do use it to make sweet treats (desserts, such as the Creme Brulee I made the other night for a little dinner gathering, or a batch of margaritas)but these aren’t daily occurrences. Obviously, on these occasions, our intake of sweeteners will be more for that day.

    So what’s reasonable? IMH (if reasonable educated) O, limiting intake to the equivalent of 3 or 4 packets a day (say in a couple of cups of coffee or in a refreshing cool beverage) shouldn’t cause MOST people a problem. Know, however, that it WILL cause SOME people a problem and conversely that using much more WON’T cause OTHER people a problem. The upshot? Know thyself!

  6. Luckily, in Canada, I can get Stevia almost anywhere. It takes a bit of getting used to but it seems to be the only sweetener that I feel safe using.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: It’s pretty widely available here, too, though not in most ‘regular’ groceries. Virtually every health food store and ‘whole foods or natural’ market carries multiple types of it. I feel sure it will make its way into the mainstream groceries here eventually. We do use it occasionally, mainly to sweeten a beverage, but it’s still tougher to cook with, IMHO at least, because there’s such a fine line between sweet enough and bitter. As to the safety, it probably is safe, owing to its long use in the wilds of South America, but you have to remember that just because it’s a natural extract of a plant doesn’t mean it’s safe. Digitalis (a medication use to combat congestive heart failure and now manufactured synthetically) is a natural extract of the foxglove plant (also called the deadly nightshade for good reason) and it’s lethal if used improperly. Natural, but lethal.

  7. I know of someone who has patented an electrochemical method of making xylitol and erythritol from corn syrup and plans to bring it to market. This will drop the price a huge amount, and I expect they will replace other sweeteners in soft drinks.

    COMMENTS from MD EADES: Perhaps not if the price of corn continues to skyrocket because of its value in ethanol production.

  8. Thank you for pulling together all that information. The same questions are often asked on the bulletin board. This will be a very helpful reference.

    By the way, I’d have loved to join you in Rome (except that I think July might be a bit beyond my heat tolerance) but I’m going in April, and don’t think the budget will cover two trips this year.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Sorry you couldn’t have joined us; wish we were going when you’re going. It’s long been our habit–since the kids grew up and school schedules didn’t dictate when we could go abroad– to avoid summer travel because of the heat and the throngs of tourists. Unfortunately, so many people in the Choral Society either have kids or are college students themselves that it would make it tough to field a good choir anytime but summer. Of our 100 voices, 62 are going on the tour, so we’ll have a good full sound for sure. As to the heat, we have contractually guaranteed air conditioned accommodations and we’ll wear lots of white and carry fans, I suppose. It will be a kick to perform in these venues and I think we can stand the heat for 2 weeks. I hope…

  9. While sucralose seems chemically unlikely to be harmful, since the whole point is that our bodies can’t metabolize it in any way, I’m conscious of how many other “artificial sweeteners” have been touted as the hot new, healthy sweetener, and have come to be of questionable value, later.

    So I just don’t use sweeteners of the kinds listed here, at all.

    But I also have the advantage of not needing to restrict my carb intake, yet. I have the kind of metabolism/activity combination that allows me to stay fit even while eating fatty and carby foods willy-nilly for their taste, as well as a growing fondness for fruits and vegetables to temper that behavior.

    Personally, though, I’d be more likely to eat fewer sweet things at all, than to eat things sweetened by stuff of unknown safety.

    I am coming to think that the American obsession with losing weight is more harmful than the American tendency to be overweight that spawned it. I’d swear that going to an extreme with weight-loss diets causes some people to become more obsessed with food in the first place, ergo the need to find this or that to “replace” sugar/carbs (in thise case) instead of just not eating the thing at all.

    Oh, and then there’s the STEALTH use of sucralose, on the assumption that we ALL need to lose weight and that because it’s supposedly harmless, none of us mind having it in our food at random. I’ve come to carefully read the ingredient list of every new kind of drink I buy, because more than once there has been NO indication that a drink is “diet”, then I notice the aftertaste and realize that, for example, ALL V8 Splash (et cetera) has Sucralose.

    The idea that sugar/carbs/fat/salt/whatever is bad for EVERYONE, just because some subset of people need to cut back, is harmful in and of itself.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: I appreciate your views, albeit that they’re from a vantage point of being metabolically gifted and being able to have whatever you want, whenever you want it. You’re quite fortunate in that, but a vast number of people (about 75% of adults) aren’t quite so lucky. And for most of them, it’s better to have a little bit of metabolically inert sweet than to go face first into the sugar bowl.

    I repeat what I said in the post: We recommend trying to curb your sweet tooth by cutting down on the addition of sweetness from all sources, real and artificial, caloric and not. Only then can the sweet receptors recover enough to perceive the natural sweetness of food.

  10. It would be nice if you could expand your paragraph on Lo Han Guo to let people know they can buy SlimSweet (made by Trimedica) or SweetLife (made by Renew Life), in packets or small jars at some health-food stores or internet retailers. I use it to sweeten hot tea, and also in combination with a little splenda and a little inulin to sweeten baked goods.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Thanks, you just expanded it!

  11. I have to avoid both sucrose and fructose because they affect my rheumatoid arthritis tremendously. After months of going without coffee (sweetener required!) I really wanted to add that back into my diet so I tried stevia. I was surprised to find that it has the same effect on me as sugar.

    I’m now using Splenda and it seems to be working o.k., presumably because it is “minimally metabolized,” as you say. Any suggestions for what I can try next if the Splenda starts to cause problems?

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Check out the comment a reader provided about where you can get Lo Han Guo in packets. They also make xylitol in packets, the product Shugr is tagatose, I believe, and erythritol is sold in packets under the ZSweet brand. They’re all worth a try, kept to a minimum…as all sweeteners should be.

  12. I loved that blog entry and posted it to my favorite low carb web site.

    One thing I’d like to point out about splenda is that it is 600 times sweeter than sugar. So you really do take in a minute amount if you compare it to sugar. I wonder if one could even measure 1/600th of a cup of sugar?

    I’m excited to hear about the new Splenda offering of 1 cup equivalents!

    COMMENT from MD EADES: You’re absolutely right, of course. When something is that sweet what it takes to do the job is next to nothing, as far as the active ingredient goes. That, of course, doesn’t mean something is harmless. It doesn’t take much curare to kill you. Again, natural, but deadly.

  13. Splenda is poison. In fact, all artificial sweetners are poison exept for stevia and raw honey. They are natural, and have no side effects. This will be common knowldge in a year or two.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Thanks for sharing your opinion; now please share some real facts about the ‘poisonous nature’ of Splenda and all artificial sweeteners. If there’s anything but anecdotal reports about the danger of Splenda out there, I would truly love to see the research.

    I have no problem with stevia, but honey is just a carb, with a composition basically the same as sucrose. Used in small amounts, it’s absolutely fine, used to excess all the natural monikers on earth won’t stop it from causing the same problems that overconsumption of sugar causes. And how about raw sugar. That’s natural, too.

    I once again remind you that the fact that a substance is ‘natural’ doesn’t equate with its being harmless. An all natural extract of the foxglove plant (similar to an all natural extract of the stevia plant) is digitalis, which is lethal if consumed in all but the most minute amounts. Natural, but deadly, from which it gets its common name: the deadly nightshade. Similarly, curare is derived from all natural sources in the South American jungles and yet it’s a deadly poison in minute amounts.

  14. I am one of those who gets a very, very bad intestinal reaction to Splenda and know within minutes if I have had something with Splenda in it. Therefore, I have to be ever vigilant when buying any “diet” products.

    You said that you used Splenda in some of the dishes that you served for a dinner party. Do you inform your guests that you have used Splenda? It’s one thing to be able to see something like peanuts that may be visible in a dish, if you are allergic to nuts, and then you can avoid it, but Splenda is a hidden ingredient. I do question hosts about drinks that they may be serving, but sometimes I don’t think to ask if they have used Splenda in the food they’ve prepared.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Typically, I ask guests if there is anything they can’t or won’t eat and try to make sure that I have alternatives. Usually, before I serve something to an unknown person, if I haven’t been able to ask them in advance (say a ‘surprise’ guest) I will, indeed, inform them and if they can’t eat something in the drink or dish I will offer them something else.

  15. Great post! I’m a xylitol and Splenda user myself, but in pretty small quantities, for the same reasons you point out. Most commercially sweetened foods are just too sweet for me now (sometimes disgustingly so); my taste buds are now more sensitive. Outside of my family, though, my “desserts” aren’t sweet enough for most people.
    Cheers,
    Anna
    COMMENT from MD EADES: Maybe, bit by bit and person by person we can dial down the national sweet tooth and ultimately they will be.

  16. My beautiful Castor Bean plants are natural, too (wink ;)).

    Thank you for all the terrific information. The history was fascinating- I also did bio and some chem as an undergrad and am a tad shocked at how many of these sweeteners were discovered. Chance may favor the prepared mind, but perhaps some accidental discoveries may be reserved for the brave (or foolish).

    As for me, I’ve been using Splenda for exactly 3 years now, with no ill effects. Probably a little too much (8-10 pkts/day). But when compared to my old high-carb diet and the damage it caused, it is not something I worry about.

    The Quick Packs are great. But I find that 1/3 of a Quick Pack sweetens 2 quarts of Lemonade. If I used the whole pack, it would become sickeningly sweet. Perhaps that is a result of my “repaired” taste buds- even meat tastes incredibly sweet now.

    For the occaisional baked goods, a reader of this blog (Scott 123) introduced me to using a combination of Splenda. Erythritol, and AceK. The sweetness of the final product then becomes sweeter than the sum of it’s parts, so less equals more.

    Incidentally, we are finally getting your show on a local PBS station and have to say that we love it! Even my 10 yo daughter likes it- and she is absorbing an enormous amount of good nutritional information. Thank you.

    Have a safe and wonderful trip to Europe.

    COMMENT from MD EADES; I admit that 1 cup of sweetness in two quarts is too much for my tastebuds, too, so the Quick Packs will be a real bargain for me. Thanks for the good wishes; we’ll be blogging along the way with photos and happenings, so everybody here can stay abreast.

  17. Pardon my intrusion again, I do no mean to be argumentative, but I think Digitalis purpurea L is known as Common Foxglove or Purple Foxglove, whereas Deadly Nightshade is Solanum nigrum L.

    The unripe fruits of Solanum nigrum L are poisonous. Interestingly, many other members of the Nightshade family are poisonous, such as Jimsonweed, Henbane, and Belladonna. Yet this family of plants also supplies us with tomatoes, eggplants, petunias, and peppers.

    Oh…and Potatoes.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: No arguement taken, although we were taught in med school that D. purpurea was the ‘deadly nightshade’ but then they were pharmacologists doing the teaching, not botanists, so perhaps they were generalizing. I will happily stand corrected. And yes, you’re absolutely correct that tomatoes, et al, are in the nightshade family. Tobacco, too, I believe, or at least a distant cousin.

    The point, however, was that some plants, which are all natural, of course, are quite harmful, so a thing’s being natural doesn’t mean it’s harmless.

  18. I have noticed on your show you use a lot of the “Thick/Thin” products. I have a hard time finding them around here and am wondering how do you use them to replace the sugar effect in baking and ice cream making. I saw there is now a “not starch” and a “not sugar” product. Should these become a bigger part of my low carb kitchen and do they come with instructions?

    COMMENT from MD EADES:

    I think this may have come through twice, but I’ll answer it again. The products and information about them can be found in the Products section of this website.

  19. I have noticed on your show you use a lot of the “Thick/Thin” products. I have a hard time finding them around here and am wondering how do you use them to replace the sugar effect in baking and ice cream making. I saw there is now a “not starch” and a “not sugar” product. Should these become a bigger part of my low carb kitchen and do they come with instructions?

    COMMENTS from MD EADES: The products are available in many specialty stores and online. They’re even available from the Low Carb CookwoRx website in the products section. And yes, the instructions are written right on the packages. I keep both basic products around: not/Starch which works better as a thickener for gravies and sauces and not/Sugar, which helps to replace some of the mouthfeel and bulking effect usually provided by sugar. They’re easy to use and tasteless and, for me at least, at boon.

  20. I love dark chocolate but can’t have even a little sugar. Any amount of carb beyond that found in, say, a few nuts, just triggers over eating. I also cannot tolerate any sugar alcohols (gut problem). So I was thrilled to find a low carb chocolate bar sweetened with Splenda and no sugar alcohols. It was from a company called “Eat Well Be Well.” They had a few other products, too. Unfortunately, they recently went out of business. Have you heard of any company producing chocolate that is sweetened with Splenda and not malitol, etc?

    COMMENT from MD EADES: No, I can’t say that I know of another Splenda sweetened chocolate bar, but you can always make your own Splenda sweetened confections. There’s a recipe for Classic Chocolate Truffles in the companion cookbook to our PBS television show, The Low Carb CookwoRx Cookbook. You could even make the carb count per truffle lower using the Splenda Quick Packs in place of the granular or the packets.

  21. I’ve been using Equal since the age of 15, when we found out my dad was diabetic. I’ve been afraid of refined sugar since then, but lately something has been wreaking havoc on my stomach. After months of observation in my reactions to foods, I think it might actual be the equal or artificial sweetener. Could it be possible that diet coke or equal in my coffee could cause IBS? I’ve had tests eliminating concerns for ulcerative colitis or the like. Now I’m afraid of artificial sugar. Is Agave a good alternative? Sugar in the Raw? Thanks for your advice. Great article.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: We’ve personally witness documented and reproducible severe stomach cramping from Equal in several people, so it’s certainly possible that it’s the culprit. Agave is mainly fructose, which is a true sugar and in particular one that can cause insulin resistance if used in large amounts. Sugar in the raw is just unbleached sugar with the molasses and other particulates left in. From a metabolic standpoint, it’s just sugar with all the attendant metabolic problems. Stevia, AceK (which is artificial, however) and perhaps erythritol (which is also technically artificial) in small amounts might be preferable. Anything in large amounts can cause problems, so moderation is usually the key.

  22. I had a nightmare~actually woke up screaming
    one night after I had drank a can of Root Beer with aspartame. I am not/was not one to have nightmares. This was over 10 years ago and I have not had aspartame since and have not had a nightmare since.

    I do not consume any artificial sweeteners (on purpose~one time I noticed sucralose on the ingredient label of an English muffin after I had eaten it). I have an ethical reason for not eating sucralose also. I am not 100% sure if it is true, but puppies alledgedly suffered in the testing of sucralose. UNACCEPTABLE!!! For what…human vanity…?!

    The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
    (~Mahatma Gandhi)

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Can’t say I have ever heard that as a complaint against the product and I can’t figure out what they would have been looking for by testing puppies with it, what they could possibly have been trying to find out, I mean. Those kinds of tales often turn out to be apocryphal when they’re finally tracked to their origins. Of course, we’d all hope no animals would ever be tortured for any reason, but in this case, it doesn’t make sense. Why puppies, after all? Why not more typical, less charismatic lab animals, such as mice, rats, pigs, or monkeys? There shouldn’t be anything particular to puppies that would make them especially suited to testing a sweetener and their use would be sure to draw the ire and fire of the public.

  23. I just put together a web site, partially to help out my husband’s aunt, who is cooking for both herself and her diabetic husband.

    I realize there are a ton of low-carb recipe sites out there, but I was trying to address how to cook *both* high carb and low carb simultaneously. I’ve been doing it for years as my husband and daughter have no interest in low-carbing.

    So… in putting this site together, I wrote a page about sweeteners myself:
    http://ornery-geeks.org/text/cooking/baking/aboutsweeteners.asp

    You will probably not be as interested in the page about various types of wheat flours though. 😉

    I specifically ignored sweeteners that I have never seen recipes for in the low-carb newsgroup and web sites, just limiting it to what I think people commonly have available.

  24. thank you for this article on sweetners. my mom has been diagnosed “pre-diabetic” and has absolutely no tolerance for any of the sugar sweetners to date (ex. Saccharine, Acesulfame K, Aspartame), including Splenda. albeit, never tried Stevia, or Xylitol or some of the others like that

    In the book, Low Carb Comfort Foods, how would i adjust the sugar for making breads and stuff. if we used that as our everyday bread (2 slices) per day, would that fall under moderation?

    If you get time to answer, thanks.  LaNell

    COMMENT from MD EADES:  I will be happy to answer, but I don’t understand your question.  What recipe in Low Carb Comfort Food Cookbook are you wondering about adjusting the sugar in?  If you can let me know, I’ll gladly comment further.

  25. Thanks for this compiling all of this info! I’m looking for more info on Lo Han Kuo since it’s natural and been used for centuries unlike all of these artificial products. The fact that people are having reactions to Splenda can’t be good.

    Do you think Lo Han and Stevia would have synergistic effects in baking? Maybe those sweeteners along with erythritol would have the best results? FYI, Stevia Glycerite doesn’t have that bitter aftertaste because NOW uses the expensive parts of the plants in making it. I’m trying out Jarrow Lo Han sweet as soon as it comes in the mail.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: You’re quite welcome. All sweetener options come with a good side and a bad one, I’m sure. Once any of them are used in large amounts by many millions of people (as has happened with Splenda) then you’re bound to have some people who will react unfavorably. It’s just a numbers game, really. Just as people can react with allergic violence to sesame seeds, or chocolate, or aspirin, so they can to any substance. If enough people use the substance, somebody’s bound to react. The same might likely prove to be true for the ‘natural’ ones, such as stevia glycosides or lo han. In small amounts, infrequently (as nature probably intended us to consume super sweet foods) there may be reasonable safety in most all of them.

  26. I like to look at things that have been around for thousands of years and hasn’t been manipulated by man. Samson, from the bible, took a piece of honeycomb from a hive to NOURISH himself on his journey. Bears eat honey every year as a treat and wild animals are disease free. However, once they are captured or rescued, they end up having a host of problems. I think your best bet is to eat things in their most “whole, wild” state, in season, and what grows in your area. Even honey is heated and stripped of the precious honeycomb.

  27. Is there a way to become a content writer for the site?

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Thusfar, we (Mike and I) do all the writing for the site. We have entertained the notion of having guest bloggers, but so far have not done so.

  28. I’m hoping that since a couple of years have passed since this blog, you may have had the opportunity to further research ogliofructosides (sold as “sweet perfection” at Netrition, for use as a sweetener. It costs a fortune, but I think it tastes great. Don’t want to be using it though, if it has consequences….

    COMMENT from MD EADES: I don’t have really any new/updated info on consequences related to FOS, and based on what I’ve read, it’s probably fine to use.