Sweeteners: The Good and the Ugly: General Information, Related Research

Sweeteners: The Good and the Ugly

Index of Diseases / Health Conditions ... Medicinal Foods, Herbs, Spices & Household Items

The below provides a general overview on this topic and may not apply to everyone. Any treatment protocol should be discussed with a qualified healthcare practitioner ... Please refer to: Medical & Legal Disclaimer.

Better / Best Sweeteners

Food RemediesWorst Choices for Sweeteners:


Aspartame is the best-selling sweetener that is sold commercially under names like NutraSweet, Canderel, and AminoSweet. This chemical sweetener can be found in more than 6,000 foods, including soft drinks, chewing gum, table-top sweeteners, diet and diabetic foods, breakfast cereals, jams, sweets, vitamins, prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

There are some serious concerns about this sweetener on the basis of which the FDA refused to approve this sweetener for 16 years, until one powerful politician was able to push the approval through.

Approximately 10% of aspartame is broken down into methanol in the small intestine. Most of the methanol is absorbed and quickly converted into formaldehyde - a known toxin. Formaldehyde-based solutions are used in embalming human remains.

Now this sweetener has been linked to memory loss, impaired vision / vision loss, headaches, hearing loss, joint pain, asthma, coma, seizures, brain cancer, lymphoma, coma, and genotoxic effects. It also appears to worsen or mimic the symptoms of such conditions as fibromyalgia, MS, lupus, ADD, diabetes, Alzheimer's, chronic fatigue, and depression. The US Air Force issued an alert in 1992, warning air force pilots about drinking diet drinks containing aspartame before flying.

Scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston conducted an 11-year study on the effects of artificial sweeteners on the body. The results indicated that those who drank two or more artificially-sweetened beverages a day doubled their risk of more-rapid-than-normal kidney function decline. High sodium intake was also implicated in the study as promoting progressive kidney decline. Since diet soda contains excessive amounts of sodium, higher than sugar soda, it was unclear which ingredient played the larger role in progressive kidney decline, the artificial sweeteners or the sodium content.

FDA Branch Chief Thomas Wilcox reported that aspartame complaints represented 75% of all reports of adverse reactions to substances in the food supply from 1981 to 1995. Concerns about aspartame frequently revolve around symptoms and health conditions that are allegedly caused by the sweetener. A total of 92 different symptoms and health conditions were reported by physicians and consumers.

The late Dr. M. Adrian Gross, a former senior FDA toxicologist, stated in his testimony before Congress: "Beyond a shadow of a doubt, aspartame triggers brain tumors"and, "therefore, by allowing aspartame to be placed on the market the FDA has violated the Delaney Amendment, which forbids putting anything in food that is know to cause cancer...And if the FDA itself elects to violates its own the law, who is left to protect the health of the public?"

Medical authorities estimate that aspartame has brought more complaints to the FDA than any other additive. In fact, it's responsible for as many as 75 percent of such complaints to that agency. After receiving some 10,000 consumer complaints, the FDA compiled a list of 92 symptoms linked to aspartame -- including death.

One medical investigator, Dr. H. J. Roberts, even concludes that aspartame has caused our obesity epidemic. He gives evidence that this sweetener makes you crave carbohydrates leading to gain weight.


In order to make sucralose, chlorine is added to sugar. Research by the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center showed that years of sucralose use can lead to serious compromise of the immune system and neurological disorders.


Saccharin is the oldest artificial sweetener. It is used to sweeten products such as drinks, candies, medicines and toothpaste. Harvey Wiley, the former director of the bureau of chemistry for the USDA, had suspected saccharin to be damaging to human health. In 1972, the USDA made an attempt to completely ban the substance from being used in anything. However, this attempt was unsuccessful, and the sweetener remains widely available in the United States.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)


Fructose is a cheap form of sugar that is used in thousands of food products and soft drinks. This sweetener is usually derived from corn. It can damage human metabolism and contributes to obesity. This sweetener can also cause dangerous growths of fat cells around vital organs and is implicated in contributing to diabetes and heart disease. Over 10 weeks, 16 volunteers fed a diet that included high levels of fructose and it was noted that they produced new fat cells around their heart, liver and other digestive organs in addition to showing signs of food-processing abnormalities. For the control group, the fructose was replaced with glucose sugar and those individuals did not show these abnormalities.

Splenda (Sucralose)

James Turner, the chairman of Citizens for Health (a national consumer education group) has expressed outrage after reading a new report from scientists outlining the dangers of the artificial sweetener Splenda. In animals examined for the study, Splenda reduced the amount of good bacteria in the intestines by 50 percent, increased the pH level in the intestines, contributed to increases in body weight and affected P-glycoprotein (P-gp) levels in such a way that crucial health-related drugs could be rejected. According to Turner, "The report makes it clear that the artificial sweetener Splenda pose{s} a threat to the people who consume [it]. Hundreds of consumers have complained to us about side effects from using Splenda."

Better, but-not-great:

Sucrose / Sugar:

Too much sugar can lead to diabetes, which will lead to a variety of other diseases, including heart and renal disease, peripheral vascular disease, blindness and diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Sugar, in moderation, has not shown to have any detrimental effects on our health.

Agave Nectar:

Most of the commercial Agave Nectar products are highly processed and it is almost all fructose. Your blood sugar will spike just as it would if you were consuming regular sugar or HFCS. Agave has gained meteoric popularity due to a great marketing campaign, but any health benefits present in the original agave plant are processed away.

Some manufacturers heat the sap which will eliminate any or most nutrients. Others use enzymes to convert it into table-ready syrup. Agave nectar is a high-fructose syrup (at least 75% fructose) and should be taken in moderation only, as excessive fructose may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes,

The Blue Agave plant was used for its medicinal and functional properties by early American inhabitants thousands of years ago. Agave is a desert cactus that has long been cultivated in hilly areas of Mexico. It has a low glycemic index and are therefore absorbed more slowly, so there are fewer ups and downs in the production of insulin. The glycemic index can vary from 13 to 35. This slow absorption is very important for maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Agave nectar is about 90 percent fructose, but this is fructose in its natural form. This means that agave nectar does not have to be processed and consequently does not contain any processing chemicals. Because of the high proportion of fructose, agave nectar is 42 percent sweeter than sucrose but has the same caloric value. So a smaller amount of agave will add the same sweetness to foods or beverages but with fewer calories than sucrose.

The general rule, the darker the nectar, the better. Agave Nectar is sweeter than table sugar, so less is needed in your recipes. This sweetener is recommended for diabetics (Type II), or insulin-resistant individuals or for those who are simply watching their carbohydrate intake. Agave Nectar is the recommended natural caloric sweetener in low calorie diets for reduction and weight control. Even though agave nectar has calories, it can be used to fight weight gain because it is burned in the body more slowly than table sugars or sucrose. Agave not only sweetens but also enhances the flavors of foods, especially fruit flavors, which makes it particularly useful for fruit drinks, desserts, and smoothies.

Best choices ...


Stevia is derived from a sweet leaf herb and grows in South America. It's 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is an all-natural herbal product that has been thoroughly tested in dozens of tests around the world and found to be completely non-toxic. Stevia can be a part of a healthy diet for anyone with blood sugar problems since it does not raise blood sugar levels.


Xylitol is a low-calorie alternative to table sugar. This sugar alcohol sweetener occurs naturally in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, including various berries, corn husks, oats, and mushrooms. It can be extracted from corn fiber, birch, raspberries, plums or corn. It can be found in mints, tablets, lozenges, mouthwashes, toothpastes and other dental care products.

Dental Care: Xylitol has shown to have dental health benefits in caries prevention. Numerous studies have shown that it prevents cavities; it can repair tooth enamel and inhibits the formation of dental plaque. It may also reduce childhood ear infections. The ideal range for consumption appears to be about 5 grams per day -- which could be achieved by chewing gum or eating mints three to five times a day. The California Dental Association states that in most cases, for the amount of Xylitol to be at decay-preventing levels, it should be listed as the first ingredient. Gum should be chewed for approximately 5 minutes and mints should be allowed to dissolve. Xylitol may also help control oral infections of Candida yeast.

Diabetes: Xylitol is absorbed more slowly than sugar and does not contribute to high blood sugar levels.

Bone Density: Xylitol also has potential as a treatment for osteoporosis. A group of Finnish researchers has found that dietary xylitol prevents weakening of bones in laboratory rats, and actually improves bone density. (Refs: Mattila PT, Svanberg MJ, Jms T, Knuuttila ML (2002). Improved bone biomechanical properties in xylitol-fed aged rats.Metabolism 51(1):92-6. Mattila, PT (1999). Dietary xylitol in the prevention of experimental osteoporosis: Beneficial effects on bone resorption, structure and biomechanics. Dissertation, Institute of Dentistry, University of Oulu)

Potential Downside: Like most sugar alcohols, Xylitol may initially have a laxative effect as sugar alcohols are not fully broken down during digestion. Consumption can result in bloating and flatulence, although generally rather less so than other sugar alcohol. Studies have reported that adaptation occurs after several weeks of consumption. (Ref. Wang YM, van Eys J (1981). "Nutritional significance of fructose and sugar alcohols". Annu. Rev. Nutr. 1: 437–75). It may also be toxic to dogs -- although this theory is subject to some controversy. One study showed that dogs that have ingested foods containing high levels of xylitol (greater than 100 milligram of xylitol consumed per kilogram of bodyweight) have presented with low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) which can be life-threatening. However, earlier studies conducted by the World Health Organization where dogs were given much higher doses for long periods showed no ill effect. (Ref. Xlear, Inc. Issues Response to JAVMA Report on Dogs and Xylitol)

Mesquite Powder:

Mesquite Pod Meal is a protein-rich seed that is ground from the bean pods of the mesquite tree. It makes a low-glycemic, high-protein sweetener that is rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and lysine. This aromatic powder or meal is highly nutritious and flavorful. It can be used as a sweetener or flavor enhancer for your desserts, soups, sauces, pastas, vegetables or pie crusts. A high lysine content makes it the perfect addition to crackers and dehydrated foods often low in this amino acid. It has a pleasantly sweet molasses-like flavor with a hint of caramel.

Chicory Root Sweetener

Chirocry Root Sweetener has no aftertaste and is a prebiotic as well. It's also safe for person's with diabetes and candida because it is actually a fiber and does not feed the bad bacterias in the gut. It is used as a sweetener in the food industry (with a sweetening power approximately 90% less than sucrose) and is sometimes added to yogurts as a probiotic. It's a natural alternative for health conscious people, who choose a calorie-restricted diet.

Chicory is antibacterial, antiseptic, aperient, astringent, bitter, cardiotonic, carminative, cholagogue, depurative, digestive, diuretic, febrifuge, hepatic, laxative (mild), stimulant, stomachic, tonic. Galen, the second-century physician-herbalist, referred to chicory a “friend to the liver.” Chicory Root clears heat and toxins and also promotes bile flow. It is used to treat acne, appetite loss, boils, constipation, depression, diabetes, dyspepsia, eczema, gallstones, gastritis, gout, hepatitis, irritability, jaundice, liver enlargement, rapid heartbeat, rheumatism and urinary tract infection.


Erythritol occurs naturally in small amounts in some fruits, and in greater amounts in certain mushrooms and other fungi, and in fermented foods such as wine and soy sauce. Erythritol has 60-80% of the sweetness of sugar. Erythritol has the least impact on blood sugar and has almost zero calories, carbs, and glycemic index. The reason is a bit different that most sugar alcohols, which are only partially absorbed in the small intestine. Most (60-90%) of the erythritol is absorbed into the blood, but is then excreted in the urine.


Molasses is nutrient-rich, with valuable minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients. When we eat molasses, we are actually eating concentrated nutrients from cane sugar without all the calories. The general rule, the darker the molasses, the better.


The darker honey is actually lower on the glycemic index. The general rule, the darker the honey, the better. Honey can affect blood sugar levels, and may be not suitable for consumption by diabetics.

  • "Manuka Honey is the only kind that retains its bacteria-fighting power when ingested," says Peter Molan, Ph.D., Director of the Honey Research Unit at the University of Waikato on the New Zealand's North Island. It also soothes the pain from ulcers and stimulates the growth of cells to repair damaged tissue.

    • Manuka Honey works for non-bacterial ulcers as well; the kind that is caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), alcohol and stress, and may alleviate mild to severe stomach pain due to inflammation following meals.
      • For existing ulcers, take one heaping spoonful of the honey on an empty stomach while symptoms persist.
      • For prevention, take a spoonful 30 minutes prior to taking any NSAID and before meals.

However, because of Manuka Honey's 80% sugar content, diabetics and those with insulin sensitivities should talk to their healthcare provider before following this protocol.

Brown Rice Syrup:

Brown Rice Syrup is more of a whole foods syrup. It has a lower glycemic index than high fructose corn syrup. It is derived by culturing cooked rice with enzymes (usually from dried barley sprouts) to break down the starches, then straining off the liquid and cooking it until the desired consistency is reached. The final product is roughly 50% soluble complex carbohydrates, 45% maltose, and 3% glucose. The glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream immediately, while the maltose takes up to one and a half hours to be digested, and the complex carbohydrates take from two to three hours, providing a steady supply of energy. Brown rice syrup is not suitable for consumption by diabetics, as the glucose and maltose cause rapid rise in blood-sugar.

Other Natural Sweeteners:

Pure maple syrup:

  • Buy pure U.S. organic syrup.  Some maple producers still use illegal formaldehyde pellets and other additives during processing. 
  • Use in all baked goods. Great in cakes.

Barley malt syrup:

  • Best used in combination with other sweeteners.  Great in spice cakes, gingerbread, and baked beans.

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