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Low-calorie sweeteners provide sweet taste without calories, or with very few calories. Most low-calorie sweeteners are not digested by the body and provide no calories.
An exception is aspartame, which is metabolized naturally. But since aspartame is approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose, only a tiny amount of aspartame (1/10 of a calorie) is needed to equal the sweetness of a teaspoon of sugar (16 calories).
Low-calorie sweeteners are also called "non-nutritive sweeteners," "intense sweeteners," "high intensity sweeteners," "high potency sweeteners," or "alternative sweeteners".
The first low-calorie sweetener, saccharin, was discovered in 1878. And since then, a number of other low-calorie sweeteners including cyclamate, aspartame, acesulfame K, neohesperidine DC, thaumatin, sucralose and alitame have been produced and used around the world.
The consumption of low-calorie sweeteners continues to increase. Consumer demand for low-calorie foods and beverages has been the major force behind this growth.
In the USA, for example, a national consumer survey shows that the consumption of low-calorie foods and beverages by people aged 18 and older has doubled in the past decade. This increasing interest in a health-conscious lifestyle and advances in food technology are pushing the development of more and better tasting low-calorie foods and beverages.
Low-calorie sweeteners are also used in other consumer products such as pharmaceuticals, chewing gums, dentifrices, mouthwashes and fluoride supplements.
Low Calorie Sweeteners and Weight Gain
Low-calorie sweeteners can help with weight management and do not cause weight gain.
As Americans face increasing obesity rates, low-calorie sweeteners can offer help with weight management. Research indicates that people who incorporate foods and beverages sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners into their diet in place of calorie-containing sweeteners actually consume fewer calories than those who do not. Additionally, since they are not deprived of sweets, individuals consuming low-calorie sweeteners may feel more satisfied with their eating plans, helping them to lose weight and keep it off.
In one recent study, researchers at Purdue University found that consumption of saccharin led to increased appetite and weight gain in rats. However, due to a known affinity for saccharin of rats, small sample size, and other flaws in the study design, many experts agree that the results cannot be applied to humans. While a few studies have suggested that low-calorie sweeteners may cause cravings and/or lead to weight gain, these studies have not changed the overall scientific consensus that low-calorie sweeteners can aid in weight management.
Clinical studies conducted in humans over the past 20 years have shown that low calorie sweeteners can help with weight loss and maintenance. A review of aspartame's role in weight management demonstrated a weight loss of 0.2 kg/week (or 0.4 lb/week) when aspartame-sweetened products were substituted for those sweetened with sugar. Similar findings were seen in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in the late 90s.
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