Artificial Sweeteners: the US Leads the World.

by ADA

The United States leads the world in consumption of high-intensity sweeteners, consuming approximately 50% of the world demand. High-intensity sweeteners can offer consumers a way to enjoy the taste of sweetness with little or no energy intake or glycemic response. Nonnutritive sweeteners may assist in weight management, control of blood glucose, and prevention of dental caries.

NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS

The United States leads the world in consumption of high-intensity sweeteners, consuming approximately 50% of the world demand (22). High-intensity sweeteners can offer consumers a way to enjoy the taste of sweetness with little or no energy intake or glycemic response. Nonnutritive sweeteners may assist in weight management, control of blood glucose, and prevention of dental caries. The food industry evaluates these sweeteners for many attributes, including sensory qualities (eg, clean sweet taste, no bitterness, odorless), safety, compatibility with other food ingredients, and stability in different food environments. The trend in the food industry is to blend high-intensity sweeteners. Blending can cause sweetness synergy (ie, the combination is sweeter than the individual components), which can decrease the amount of sweetener needed and can improve the overall sweet taste.

FDA has approved 4 nonnutritive sweeteners and regulates them as food additives: saccharin (on an interim basis pending additional study), aspartame, acesulfame potassium (or acesulfame-K), and sucralose.

Saccharin Saccharin exceeds the sweetness of sugar 200 to 700 times (23). It provides no energy, as it is not metabolized by human beings (23), and it is not cariogenic. The FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition estimates the daily use of saccharin at 50 mg per person per day. The JECFA has set the ADI for saccharin at 5 mg/kg body weight per day (24). Despite the decline in use, saccharin is the largest-volume, lowest-cost high-intensity sweetener used in the world (nearly 62 million lb were used in 1995) (22). It is approved for use in more than 100 countries.

Saccharin was originally included on the GRAS listing. In 1977, FDA placed a ban on use of saccharin because it was reported to be a carcinogen in rats. In the same year, Congress, through the Saccharin Study and Labeling Act, imposed an 18- month moratorium on the FDA ban and required products containing saccharin to bear the following warning: "Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals." Congress has extended this moratorium 7 times, the last to continue through May 2002. In 1991, FDA formally withdrew the proposed ban and considers saccharin to be a food additive on an interim basis for use in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, foods and beverages, tabletop sugar substitutes, and chewing gum. The amount of saccharin must appear on the food label and is limited to no more than 12 mg/oz in beverages, 20 mg per sweetening equivalent of 1 tsp sugar, or no more than 30 mg per food serving (21).

Since 1981, saccharin has been listed as an "anticipated" human carcinogen (25). Studies of high users (ie, persons with diabetes) do not support an association between saccharin and cancer (26,27). However, subgroups of persons (eg, male heavy smokers) may present increased risk (25). The advisory board for the National Toxicology Program did not recommend removal of saccharin from the Report on Carcinogens, Ninth Edition(report in preparation).

Aspartame Aspartame a dipeptide (methyl ester of l-aspartic acid and l-phenylalanine) is 160 to 220 times sweeter than sucrose. Intestinal esterases hydrolyze aspartame to aspartic acid, methanol, and phenylalanine (28). The amino acids are metabolized to provide 4 kcal/g. Thus, this sweetener does provide energy; however, because of the intense sweetness of aspartame, the amount of energy derived from it is negligible.

In 1981, FDA approved aspartame as a sweetener for a number of dry uses (eg, tabletop sweetener, cold breakfast cereal, gelatins, puddings) and in chewing gum and carbonated beverages. In 1985, the Council on Scientific Affairs of The American Medical Association concluded that "Available evidence suggests that consumption of aspartame by normal humans is safe and is not associated with serious adverse health effects" (29, p 400). FDA has evaluated aspartame use in food and beverages 26 times since its original approval. In 1996, FDA approved aspartame as a general-purpose sweetener for use in all foods and beverages. Aspartame is also approved for use in more than 100 nations.

Demand for aspartame in the United States rose from 8.4 million lb in 1986 to 17.5 million lb in 1992, a figure that represents more than 80% of the world demand. Although soft drinks account for more than 70% of aspartame consumption, this sweetener is added to more than 6,000 foods, personal care products, and pharmaceuticals. Aspartame is available in liquid, granular, encapsulated, and powder forms to extend its use in food and beverage products. The encapsulated form has made aspartame more heat stable and has extended its use in some commercially baked products.

 
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