By Mr Chaisucha Chotipurk, Regional Director East Asia, Merisant Company
Sugar has long been established as an iconic food product with a notorious reputation; consumers and health experts have fretted over the latent negative health effects related to sugar consumption for decades, with many in the healthcare community claiming that sugar is toxic and can be linked to obesity. In a move to prioritise national well-being and in light of growing health issues in developed countries, the World Health Organisation and governments worldwide have taken steps over the past few years to revise sugar intake recommendations.
Excessive consumption of sugars has been linked to several metabolic abnormalities and adverse health conditions according to American Heart Association (AHA). Oncology Nutrition also suggested that a diet loaded with simple carbohydrates such as sugar may increase cancer risk, particularly in individuals who are overweight and/or those who have an inactive lifestyle. It is also linked to increased risk of digestive and hormonally related cancers: colorectal, liver, pancreatic, breast, endometrial and ovarian.
No Such Thing as Good or Bad Sugars
“Sugar is a type of carbohydrate which provides us with energy and occurs naturally in fruit, vegetables and dairy, as well as in the form of an ingredient added to a wide range of food and drinks,” explains Pang Shu Ying, a dietician at KEEN Lifestyle. It is a commonly held belief among many people that certain types of sugar are healthier than others, depending on the amount of processing that has taken place.
According to Shu Ying, it is often assumed that less-refined sugars are more nutritious than regular white sugar as they retain more of the nutrients from the original plant, however, there is no meaningful difference between any of these kinds of sugar as they all provide similar calories and share a similar metabolic pathway.
Sucralose: A Healthier Sweetness
Sucralose was discovered in 1976 as the result of a joint sweetener research project conducted by Tate & Lyle and Queen Elizabeth College in London, UK. It is made through a patented, multi-step process that starts with sugar and selectively replaces three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule with three chlorine atoms. The result is an exceptionally stable sweetener that is 600 times sweeter than sugar, but boasts zero calories.
Although there are numerous sugar substitutes available in the market, sucralose has gained popularity worldwide with its sugar-like taste and multipurpose usage. This ingredient is able to withstand high temperatures and is highly soluble, making it a suitable sugar replacement in cooking and baking, where foods are usually subject to either cold temperatures or high heat. Now, sucralose is commonly used in the manufacturing of popular food and beverage products such as breakfast cereals, ice cream, yoghurt and carbonated drinks. Recipes adapted for use with sucralose are also readily available online, catering to consumer demands in planning low-calorie and reduced sugar meals.
Sucralose is highly helpful in helping consumers control their calorie intake, as it is both sugar-free and non-caloric. Although sucralose is derived from sugar, the body does not recognise it as sugar or a carbohydrate. It is therefore not metabolised by the body for energy, and as a result, contains no calories. Sucralose passes through the body virtually unchanged and unaffected by the digestive processes. In addition, sucralose does not raise insulin or blood sugar levels making it suitable for diabetics to consume.
Market demand for sucralose is likely to continue increasing as consumers continue looking for ways to improve their eating habits with diet food products low in sugar, calories and fat.