Medical Encyclopedia


Medical Encyclopedia

Other encyclopedia topics:  A-Ag  Ah-Ap  Aq-Az  B-Bk  Bl-Bz  C-Cg  Ch-Co  Cp-Cz  D-Di  Dj-Dz  E-Ep  Eq-Ez  F  G  H-Hf  Hg-Hz  I-In  Io-Iz  J  K  L-Ln  Lo-Lz  M-Mf  Mg-Mz  N  O  P-Pl  Pm-Pz  Q  R  S-Sh  Si-Sp  Sq-Sz  T-Tn  To-Tz  U  V  W  X  Y  Z  0-9 


Contents of this page:

Definition    Return to top

There are two types of sweeteners:

The caloric sweeteners provide 4 calories per gram. The noncaloric varieties provide zero calories

Function    Return to top

Caloric sweeteners provide sweet flavor and bulk when added to food. They also maintain freshness and contribute to product quality. Caloric sweeteners act as a preservative in jams and jellies, and a flavor enhancer in processed meats. They provide fermentation for breads and pickles, bulk to ice cream, and body to carbonated beverages. Some caloric sweeteners are made by processing sugar compounds. Some occur naturally.

Noncaloric sweeteners are used in place of caloric sweeteners in some foods. They do not provide calories, but they do provide the sweet taste. All noncaloric sweeteners are chemically processed.

Food Sources    Return to top





Side Effects    Return to top

Sugar provides calories and no other nutrients. Sugar or caloric sweeteners can lead to tooth decay.

Drinking large amounts of sugar-containing beverages is associated with obesity in children.

A high intake of sugar does not cause diabetes, but if you are diagnosed with diabetes the amount of simple sugar you eat often needs to be reduced.

People have reported side effects from eating aspartame, but this has not been proven through scientific studies.

Sorbitol may have a laxative effect when eaten in large quantities.

Recommendations    Return to top

Sugar is on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) list of safe foods. It contains 16 calories per teaspoon and can be used in moderation. All of the various types of sugars described earlier can be used in moderation.

The artificial sweeteners aspartame, acesulfame K , and sucralose are all FDA approved.

Aspartame is not recommended for people with phenylketonuria (PKU), as they are unable to metabolize it.

The U.S. National Toxicology Program removed saccharin from it's list of cancer-causing substances in May 2000.

References    Return to top

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Artificial sweeteners: No calories…sweet! FDA Consumer Magazine, July-August 2006. Available at (accessed May 3, 2009)

Update Date: 5/3/2009

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M. Logo

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2009, A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.