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How sweeteners help to balance tasty treats with healthy eating >

As far as sugar goes, this is largely justified. The human body is not designed to process lots of sugar. We now know that large quantities of so-called free sugars in the diet can be a major cause of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Unfortunately, the amount of sugar added to cakes, biscuits, sweets and drinks to make them taste good is often way over amounts we can healthily handle. The sugar in a single can of fizzy pop, for example, can easily exceed the recommended 30g maximum an adult should consume every day.

Even after the negative effects of a high sugar diet became apparent to medical science, it has proven to be a hard habit to shake. People love sweet things. It has only been with the rise of alternative sweeteners and a concerted public health effort that real progress has been made in the past 10 years.

Proving the case for sweeteners

Part of the struggle is that alternative sweeteners have faced their own battle for the hearts and minds of the public. The product of modern food science, sweeteners are widely labelled as ‘artificial’. Messaging about health and nutrition tells us that natural foods are better for us. So it is understandable how doubts and confusion over the merits of artificial sweeteners have arisen.

But the evidence in support of sugar alternatives is clear. Common sweeteners like Aspartame, Acesulfame K, Sodium Saccharin and Sucralose are all low in calories. Some contain no calories at all. They bind to the sweet taste receptors in our mouths as well as sugar does, or in some cases even better.

Any food or drink product these sweeteners are added to will taste sweet but be lower in calories. According to figures quoted by the British Soft Drink Association, of which Norkem is a proud member, increase in the use of sweeteners has seen calorie consumption from soft drinks reduce by 43% since 2014. That’s a major reduction in obesity risk.

Because they don’t raise blood glucose levels the way sugar/sucrose does, sweeteners are less likely to cause Type 2 diabetes. They are also much better for our teeth.

Sweeteners have also been caught up in a lot of negative public perception surrounding E numbers. E numbers are legal codes for food additives in European food safety law. The purpose of an E number is that it demonstrates the additive has been approved as safe for human consumption and complies with strict regulations.

Approved sweeteners undergo some of the most rigorous research and regulatory assessment of any food ingredients. They are only given an E number if a clear consumer benefit is proven. So rather than showing that a food product contains some strange chemical, an E number is proof that additives have been rigorously tested, accredited as safe and have a clear benefit.

It’s not the case that all sugar alternatives are entirely synthetic chemicals manufactured in a lab, anyway. A growing number are derived from natural plant sources. These include Stevia and its derivatives, as well as GOFOS dietary fibre.

If you are looking to source sweeteners for your food and drink products, you’ll be aware that availability has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Norkem has been able to secure good stocks of all major sugar alternatives, including exclusive supply of organic natural sweeteners like GOFOS and Agave fructose syrup.

Get in touch with our dedicated Food and Drink team for pricing and delivery information.