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Does the perfect sugar substitute really exist?

Sugar substitutes, also known as sweeteners, are widely used in the food industry in order to meet the anti-natural needs of modern people who want both.
At present, the common sugar substitutes on the market include aspartame, xylitol, erythritol, saccharin, cyclamate, steviol glycoside, sucralose, etc. Among these widely used sugar substitutes, erythritol was once listed as an almost perfect “top student” sequence, because its sweetness is not so high, only 0.6~0.8 of sucrose, but its unit calories are extremely low , only 5% of sucrose.

Although erythritol is also artificially produced, it is “naturally” found in vegetables and fruits such as melons, watermelons, pears, and grapes, and it is one of the few sweetener products produced by microbial fermentation. This “natural” identity is like a “golden water”, helping it avoid all previous controversies about sugar substitutes. So far, relevant parties including China, Europe, the United States and the World Health Organization have indeed confirmed the safety of erythritol.
Because of this, articles questioning the risks of erythritol sparked heated discussions as soon as they came out. Let’s first take a look at what this paper has to say. The study is led by the Cleveland Clinic in the United States and is divided into three “sub-items”. The first study followed 1,157 people who had been assessed for heart disease risk. The three-year follow-up results showed that those with higher blood levels of artificial sweeteners, especially erythritol, had a significantly higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events. Increase.
The second study, also conducted in a group that had undergone cardiac risk assessment, included 2149 patients from the United States and 833 patients from Europe, and the results further confirmed the association between erythritol and cardiovascular adverse events. These two studies covered more than 4,000 people, and both showed that erythritol was associated with a high incidence of cardiovascular events.
The third study finally “started” on healthy people. The researchers found 8 healthy subjects and asked them to drink a drink containing 30 grams of erythritol within 2 minutes, and then did a blood test. It was found that the levels of erythritol in the blood of all subjects soared above the threshold leading to an increased risk of blood clotting, and this high level could last for 2 to 3 days.
In simple terms, this series of studies showed that a higher risk of cardiovascular events was observed in people with higher levels of erythritol in their blood.

However, based on the various benefits of erythritol, you can still remain calm about the conclusions of this paper for the time being. Why, because the study only shows correlation, not causation. In addition, the subjects of the first two studies under this study were originally patients with cardiovascular disease or had high risk factors. The results obtained from them obviously cannot be directly applied to healthy people. As for the third study, the subjects drank 30 grams of erythritol in one breath, but in real life, a large bottle of sparkling water generally contains seven or eight grams of erythritol, which is much lower than the experimental level.
Another reason to persuade everyone to calm down is that this is not the first time sugar substitutes have sparked controversy over safety. Over the years, studies on the safety of sugar substitutes have emerged in an endless stream. In addition to the negative effects of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, there are also studies that suggest that sugar substitutes reduce immunity, and some studies say that weight gain will not result in weight loss, and that it can lead to depression and anxiety. Evidence, but it is difficult to put a solid hammer on it.
The safety controversy of sugar substitutes in the past

The biggest “rollover” of sugar substitutes occurred in 2014. At that time, Israeli scientists published a study in Nature, saying that the intake of sugar substitutes in mice would lead to changes in the intestinal flora, which would affect blood sugar metabolism and aggravate the development of diabetes. The study also believes that the experimental results are also applicable to the human body. Wait, people always think that the biggest benefit of sugar substitutes is to control blood sugar, and it actually has an accident on the track it is best at?

In this experiment, mice were fed three of the most widely used artificial sweeteners — saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame — and then developed significant glucose intolerance. Of course, glucose intolerance is not enough to cause sugar substitutes to “roll over”. are relevant only).
In fact, how sugar is converted and utilized in the human body depends not only on the activities of human organs, but also on various bacteria that “live” in the intestinal tract. For example, some bacteria are responsible for guiding the metabolism of sugar, so it can change Where blood sugar goes in the body. According to this principle, the researchers found that after using antibiotics to kill the bacteria in the intestinal tract of experimental mice that ingested sweeteners, the symptoms of glucose intolerance in experimental mice disappeared; After the gut bacteria were transferred to healthy mice, the healthy mice also became glucose intolerant.
In other words, wherever the buggy gut bacteria went, so did the symptoms of glucose intolerance. In other words, the changes in blood sugar in experimental mice after ingesting sweeteners are caused by intestinal bacteria. Subsequent analysis results showed that the number of several bacteria in the intestinal flora of experimental mice did increase, and these bacteria were related to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Of course, the results of animal experiments may not necessarily be extended to the human body intact. Although follow-up studies have also reached similar conclusions on human subjects, the evidence is not sufficient, and sugar substitutes are still considered to be a thing that does more work than harm—fortunately, the “rollover” is not completely overturned.

There are tens of thousands of sugar substitutes, which one should I eat?

Sugar substitutes are also a big family. In addition to being divided into natural sweeteners and artificial sweeteners according to their sources, they can also be divided into nutritive sweeteners and non-nutritive sweeteners according to the calories they can provide. agent. The former is mainly sugar alcohols, and the representative players include erythritol, xylitol, maltitol, mannitol, etc.; the latter are mostly artificially synthesized. With the blessing of some ingenious chemical synthesis strategies, these sugar substitutes It seems to adhere to the principle of “there is no sweetest, only sweeter”, and each one is sweeter than the other.
The oldest and most famous sugar substitute is saccharin, which is 300 times sweeter than sucrose. Aspartame, which is commonly used in diet cola today, has a sweetness of 200, which is only the “basic model”. After the advent of aspartame, scientists synthesized a new type of sweetener, neotame, with a sweetness of 8,000, through a derivative reaction. What is this concept? If you convert a spoonful of neotame into sucrose with the same sweetness, this amount is enough for you to eat for a whole year. This is not the strongest. Scientists synthesized a compound called Lugduname in 1996. Its sweetness is as high as 300,000, which is simply explosive.
So here comes the question: There are so many types of sugar substitutes, are they good or bad?
It depends on your needs. If you are more concerned about taste, you may prefer erythritol. Several other common sugar substitutes have unacceptable defects. For example, saccharin has a metallic aftertaste, acesulfame potassium has a bitter aftertaste, and steviol glycosides have a somewhat astringent taste. This is why we often list them in food ingredients. I see the reason for using multiple sweeteners together, because they have to be mixed to better simulate the taste of real sucrose.
But if you have a sensitive stomach, sugar alcohol sweeteners are not suitable for you. They are absorbed slowly or not absorbed in the body. As a result, the osmotic pressure in the intestinal tract increases, and the water in the cells seeps out. Then the water that escapes will cause the stool to become thinner and diarrhea symptoms will appear.

People’s expectations for sweeteners are mainly sugar control. Indeed, sweeteners are characterized by low blood sugar response and low insulin response, otherwise why is it said that they are the gospel of diabetics? However, given that many studies in recent years have warned about the association between sweeteners and type 2 diabetes, we should be more cautious when eating sugar substitutes—although sugar substitutes are better than real sugar, they should not be “greedy” “.
As for some people who hope to reduce the calorie burden through sugar substitutes, so as to achieve the goal of losing weight, it is estimated that they will be disappointed. Weight loss depends on the overall “income and expenditure” of energy. It is useless to replace real sugar with sugar substitutes. Some studies have even shown that although sugar substitutes have no energy, they can affect people’s appetite and make people eat unconsciously. Drop more other foods.
Speaking of which, almost all the benefits of sweeteners are accompanied by controversy, and none of them can give clear guarantees. What you probably never imagined is that the most definite benefit of sweeteners is to reduce the chance of dental caries-it not only does not breed oral bacteria like real sucrose and fructose, but also destroys the reproduction of cariogenic strains. Therefore, if you are addicted to sweetness but are worried about the damage of sugar to oral health, sugar substitutes are undoubtedly better than real sugar.