Q: Your Special Report on aspartame and high-fructose corn syrup (September Healthletter) made me wonder about ordinary table sugar. How does it compare to fructose in terms of calories? And if I want to cut calories but am still concerned about aspartame, what are my options?


Answer :In fact, regular table sugar (sucrose) isnt so different from high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which contains either 55% or 42% fructose plus other sugars, primarily glucose. Table sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Both table sugar and HFCS contain four calories per gram, so if youre counting calories you should limit both sweeteners.

To satisfy your sweet tooth without calories or aspartame, the FDA has approved four other artificial sweeteners:

Saccharin: Some 200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar, saccharin was removed from the agencys Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list in 1972; the FDA proposed a ban in 1977. Concerns over bladder cancer in rats given high doses of saccharin were alleviated, however, by subsequent National Cancer Institute findings. Those showed that the bladder tumors were caused by a mechanism that doesnt apply to humans, and that saccharin does not cause cancer in people. The National Toxicology Program determined in 2000 that saccharin should no longer be listed as a carcinogen. Saccharin is sold under brand names including SweetN Low, Sweet Twin and Necta Sweet.

Acesulfame-K: Some 200 times sweeter than sugar, with zero calories, acesulfame-k is sold under brands including Sunett and Sweet One. More than 90 studies have supported its safety.

Neotame: A whopping 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar, neotame has zero calories. Its been approved as a general-purpose sweetener in a variety of foods, and more than 100 studies have shown it to be safe.

Sucralose: Also the subject of controversy, sucralose, sold as Splenda, is 600 times sweeter than sugar. It adds no calories because it isnt digested in the body. Sucralose is made by substituting three chlorine atoms for hydrogen in ordinary sugar, a technology that the sugar industry has used to raise concerns about sucralose. The FDA reviewed more than 110 human and animal studies demonstrating the safety of sucralose, however. And theres nothing necessarily scary about ingesting chlorine atoms; half the atoms in ordinary table salt, after all, are chlorine.


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