Azúcar, edulcorantes naturales y edulcorantes artificiales

Written by: Dr. Fernando Cabrera Bueno
Published: | Updated: 12/11/2018
Edited by: Top Doctors®


The sweetener is a substance that is used to sweeten both food and products, which naturally have a bitter taste. There are several types of sweeteners: high caloric value, such as sugar or honey, and low in caloric value, usually used as sugar substitutes. Within the two types of sweeteners we can find some natural and others artificial.

Normally, low-calorie sweeteners are artificial , like the sugar substitutes that are going to be discussed in this article.

Among the substitutes for sugar are high-intensity sweeteners , with a sweetness several times higher than sugar. Thus less sweetener is required and the caloric intake is minimal. The sweetness of these sweeteners is different from sucrose , so they are often used with complex mixtures that achieve a more natural sweetness.

In cases where sucrose or other sugar contributes to the texture of the product, a filling agent is also often required. This is common in beverages labeled "dietetic" or "light", which have artificial sweeteners and give a different taste to the palate; or table sugar substitutes, which mix maltodextrins as an intense sweetener to achieve a satisfactory texture.

Currently there are several artificial and natural substances that seek to resemble sugar 

In the United States , the three primary compounds that replace sugar are saccharin , aspartame, and sucralose. In other countries cyclamate and the stevia sweetener are also quite common.

At the same time, sugar substitutes which are extremely sweet have been approved in that country: saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame K and neohesperidine dihydrochalcone .


Currently, there are controversies regarding artificial sweeteners, whether or not they may be a health risk. These doubts arise because of scant and anecdotal publications, and sometimes by uncontrolled or contrasted studies that have gained publicity through the internet and the popular press.

On the other hand, studies that have been scientifically controlled have also failed: they have not been able to determine the adverse effects caused by the consumption of these products. It is also important to refer in this regard, in relation to the stevia herbal supplement mentioned above. The controversy also surrounds the safety of this herbal supplement, which although natural, has long delayed its approval as a substitute for sugar.


Cardiology experts state that most of the sugar substitutes suitable for use in foods are artificially synthesized products. Even so, some natural sugar substitutes are known, including sorbitol and xylitol , and can be found in berries, fruits, vegetables and fungi. Commercially the extraction of these fruit and vegetable products is not viable, so that they are produced by catalytic hydrogenation of the appropriate reducing sugar. For example, xylose is converted to xylitol , lactose in lactitol and glucose in sorbitol. However, although many of these natural substitutes are known, their official approval for use in food is still pending.


Polyols , also known as "sugar alcohols" , are also non-sugar sweeteners. They are usually less sweet than sucrose, but have similar volume properties and can be used in a wide range of food products. As with all food products, the development of a formulation to replace sucrose is a complex patented process.


Characteristics of some sweeteners


Aspartame (Equal and NutraSweet)

  • It is a combination of two amino acids: phenylalanine and aspartic acid.
  • It is 220 times sweeter than sucrose.
  • Loses its sweetness when exposed to heat. It is more used in beverages rather than in baked goods.
  • Aspartame has been well studied and has not shown any serious side effects.
  • Approved by FDA.


Sucralose (Splenda )

  • It is 600 times sweeter than sucrose.
  • It is used in many foods and diet drinks, chewing gum, frozen milk desserts, fruit juices and gelatin.
  • It can be added to foods on the table.
  • FDA Approved. Saccharin (Sweet 'N Low, Sweet Twin, NectaSweet)
  • It is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sucrose.
  • It is used in many foods and diet drinks.
  • It may have a bitter taste or metallic aftertaste in some liquids.
  • It is not used for cooking and baking.
  • Approved by FDA.


Stevia (Truvia, Pure Via, Sun Crystals)

  • A non-caloric plant-based sweetener.
  • Made from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, which is cultivated for its sweet leaves.
  • Commonly known as sweet grass, sweet leaf, sugar grass or just stevia.
  • The extract of the rebaudiana is approved as a food additive. It is considered a dietary supplement.


Acesulfame K (Sunett and Sweet one)

  • It is an artificial sweetener.
  • It is thermostable and can be used for cooking and baking.
  • Can be added to food on the table. It is marketed for this purpose under the name Sweet One.
  • It is used in conjunction with other sweeteners, such as saccharin, in carbonated beverages and other low calorie products.
  • It is the most similar to table sugar in both taste and texture.
  • Approved by FDA.



  • It is an artificial sweetener.
  • It is used in many foods and diet drinks.
  • It is used as a sweetener on the table.


Fruit of the monk (Nectresse)

  • It is the powdered extract of the monk's fruit, a green and round melon that grows in central Asia.
  • It is 150 to 200 times sweeter than sucrose.
  • It is thermostable and can be used for baking and cooking and is more concentrated than sugar (¼ teaspoon equals the sweetness of 1 teaspoon sugar).
  • Approved by FDA.



  • 30 times sweeter than sucrose.
  • They are banned in the United States because they were shown to cause bladder cancer in animals


Side effects of artificial sweeteners

People often have questions about the safety and health effects of artificial sweeteners.

In 2012, the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association published a report stating that sensible use can help reduce caloric and carbohydrate intake. Even so, more research is needed. Also, there is currently insufficient evidence to determine whether the use of these sweeteners leads to weight loss or reduces the risk of heart disease.

Further research is also needed on the safety of artificial sweeteners. It is not yet clear that artificial sweeteners in the United States are associated with risks of cancer or coronary artery disease in humans.


Recommendations for the consumption of sweeteners

The FDA regulates all artificial sweeteners that are sold or used in foods prepared in the United States. It has also established an adequate daily intake or ADI, ie, the amount that can be safely consumed every day during a person's life). The FDA has approved the following artificial sweeteners: aspartame, acesulfame K, saccharin, neotame and sucralose. However, aspartame is not recommended for people with phenylketonuria (PKU), since their body is unable to break down one of the amino acids used to make aspartame. Aspartame is not recommended for people with phenylketonuria (PKU) because their body is unable to break down one of the amino acids used to make aspartame.

There is little evidence to support the avoidance of artificial sweeteners during pregnancy. Use of FDA-approved sweeteners is acceptable if used sparingly. However, the American Medical Association suggests avoiding saccharin during pregnancy because it can take a long time for the fetus to eliminate it.

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

By Dr. Fernando Cabrera Bueno

Dr. Cabrera Bueno is a specialist in Cardiology developing its healthcare activity in the heart area of ​​the University Hospital Virgen de la Victoria and the International Xanit; in the latter center is Clinical Director of Cardiology, besides being the head of the first unit Marfan private healthcare in Spain. Cardiologist with Quality Accreditation Expert, certified by the Health Quality Agency of Andalusia. It is also a cardiologist expert in echocardiography and aortic diseases.

Author of books endorsed by the Spanish Society of Cardiology Echocardiography and electrocardiography. Ed itor associated Cardiocore magazine and author of numerous publications in medical and scientific journals.

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

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