Main Difference – Natural vs Artificial Sweeteners
Sugar substitutes are mainly divided into two groups: natural and artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners are mainly used as a main ingredient in the production of confectionery products. Natural sweeteners are mainly derived from different animal or plant sources. For example, honey is a natural sweetener that is made by bees using nectar from flowers. In contrast, artificial sweeteners are mainly derived from synthetic chemicals during industrial processing. This is the key difference between natural and artificial sweeteners. Although both natural and artificial sweeteners are used for the same applications, they have different sensory and nutritional properties as well as health impacts.
What are Natural Sweeteners
Natural sugars are mainly extracted from animal or plant sources, and they are derived as a result of a natural process such as photosynthesis in a plant. These sugar substitutes are low in calories, low in fructose and taste very sweet. Thus, natural sweeteners are considered as a good sugar substitute because they have lesser-to-no calories compared to that of refined sugars often used in cooking and other beverages. However, these natural sweeteners acquire their sweet taste from glucose and fructose. They are also associated with positive health outcomes compared to artificial sweeteners.
What are Artificial Sweeteners
Sugar substitutes are artificially synthesized compounds that give a sweet taste similar to sugar. But they contain considerably less food energy. Excess consumption of artificial sweeteners is associated with detrimental health effects. Artificial sweeteners have been associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, macular degeneration, and tooth decay. Thus, different food regulation bodies’ including EU Food Additive and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulate artificial sweeteners as food additives.
Difference Between Natural and Artificial Sweeteners
Natural and artificial sweeteners may have different sensory properties, nutrients, and health effects. These differences may include,
Health Benefits and Risks
Natural sweeteners: Natural sweeteners are associated with more health benefits compared to artificial sweeteners. For example, Stevia.
Stevia has no calories or carbohydrates. Researchers have also shown that stevia can lower LDL cholesterol; prevent type 2 diabetes as it increases insulin sensitivity thus reducing blood glucose synthesis after a meal. Another research study also demonstrated that stevia could sharpen the memory and reduce brain oxidative damage. But it has some side effects as well; it can act as a contraceptive and may cause reproductive problems and allergic reactions.
Artificial sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners are associated with more negative health benefits compared to natural sweeteners. Some artificial sweeteners are forbidden in some selected countries because of their carcinogenic properties. Some studies also demonstrate that artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, etc. lead to birth defects, increased male infertility by interfering with sperm production, cancer, tooth decay and weight gain.
Natural sweeteners: Agave nectar, Date sugar, Honey, Maple syrup, Molasses, Coconut Nectar, sorbitol, and xylitol which are extracted in berries, fruit, vegetables, and mushrooms are examples of natural sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners: Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One), Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), Neotame, Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low), Sucralose (Splenda), Advantame are examples of artificial sweeteners.
Predominant sweet taste compounds
Natural sweeteners: Fructose and sugar alcohols are the main sweet taste compounds.
Artificial sweeteners: Amino acids, peptides, and sugar alcohols are the main sweet taste compounds.
Natural sweeteners are used for following applications;
- To bake (main use)
- To spread on bread or biscuits
- To sweeten various beverages such as tea
- To preserve meat
Artificial sweeteners are used for following applications;
- To sprinkle on foods
- To sweeten hot drinks such as tea and coffee
- To backed products such as baked goods, confectionery, and toffees (Diet products or sugar-free alternative products)
- To add sweetness and texture to cooked products
- To produce icing sugar that is used for dusting foods and in baking and confectionery
Natural sweeteners: Natural sweeteners are more expensive than artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners are cheaper than natural sweeteners.
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