Sugar substitutes

As discussed in section 7.3.3.1, the average consumption of sugar is higher than is considered desirable. There is a school of thought that blames the ready availability of sugar for much of the problem of overweight and obesity in Western countries. Simply omitting the sugar in tea and coffee would make a significant contribution to reduction of energy intake. A teaspoon of sugar is 5 g of carbohydrate, and thus provides 80 kJ. Two spoons of sugar in each of six cups of tea or coffee a day would thus account for some 960 kJ — almost 10% of the average person's energy expenditure. Quite apart from this obvious sugar, there is a great deal of sugar in beverages — for example, a standard 330 mL can of lemonade provides 20 g of sugar (= 320 kJ).

Because many people like their tea and coffee sweetened, and to replace the sugar in lemonades etc., there is a range of sugar substitutes. These are synthetic chemicals that are very much sweeter than sugar but are not metabolized as metabolic fuels. Even those that can be metabolized (for example aspartame, which is an amino acid derivative) are taken in such small amounts that they make no significant contribution to intake. All of these compounds have been extensively tested for safety, but as a result of concerns about possible hazards some are not permitted in some countries although they are widely used elsewhere.

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