Sugar substitutes: It’s complicated – there is no easy answer.

I’m sure there will never be any simple answer from research on this. The true answer will always be “it depends”.

For some people, using artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes will be a very bad idea. Many people find they trigger an appetite for sweets or simply that they trigger an increase in general appetite. This may or may not be immediately obvious and may sneak up on you over time.

On the other hand, for some people, being able to have some sugar-substitute-sweetened sweets, desserts, baking every now and then will be, on balance, useful because it helps them stay with the other aspects of their intended health plan over the long term.

An unresolved question is whether there are subtle, non-obvious harms that may come on from regular use of one or more or any sugar substitute. For example – the question has come up recently that sugar substitutes (one or more or any) may change the gut bacteria over time. This question will not be answered for some years, so no clear guidance there.

For small “doses” of sweetness:

– for example a hint of sweetness in coffee or tea, or some other situation where just a sprinkle of sugar would be a nice treat:

  • consider a small amount of bulk, powder l-glycine – such as 1/4 teaspoon. A rounded 1/4 teaspoon would be about 1 gram of l-glycine (see cautions below).

L-glycine is one of the amino acids that is widely present in your body. Most people consume a number of grams of l-glycine in their daily diet, as part of proteins. It was named “glycine” because of it’s sweet taste, like sugar. I find the sweet taste to be the most “true” and “clean” of all the sugar substitutes. This makes it particularly a good choice for those uses, such as in tea, where exact taste makes or breaks the enjoyment.

I am very cautious generally about using high doses of amino acids. In this case, most people’s daily intake is already a number of grams, so adding, say 1-4 grams per day of l-glycine would not be expected to be out of the usual range that your body can cope with.

It is important to note a couple of cautions:

  • l-glycine is one of the amino acids that your body can metabolize to glucose, so keep it to small amounts at one time and keep in mind the total amount for the day. If you are on a tight protein intake restriction, then l-glycine is not for you. L-glycine by itself does not replace your need for “protein” and so should not be substituted for your required protein intake.
  • in very high doses, such as 30 grams per day or even more, l-glycine has been researched for possible use as a treatment for certain mental illnesses. At high doses like these, there is an effect on neurotransmitter balance in the brain. This effect has not been shown at lower doses and would not be expected, but  I think this would be a caution to using l-glycine at more than, say, 2-3 grams total per day for anyone with a personal or family history of mental illness.

Other Sweeteners:

For a discussion of the use of sweeteners, please have a look at these two blog posts:

  • “LCHF custard” on the blog skimmed.cream.org (author on Twitter @bokkiedog). Besides a great recipe, the post leads in with a discussion of sweeteners.
  • “Sugar Substitutes: Help or Hindrance for Diabetes and Weight Control?” by dietitian Franziska Spritlzer on her blog lowcarbdietitian.com

A New Player: Allulose

Here is an article on a new non-caloric sugar-like molecule. It has some interesting properties, but there are things to beware of. This report is good, because it considers all the factors one would have to think about when considering any possible sugar substitute.   LINK

“In The Search For The Perfect Sugar Substitute, Another Candidate Emerges”

“Chemically speaking, it’s almost identical to ordinary sugar. It has the same chemical formula as fructose and glucose, but the atoms of hydrogen and oxygen are arranged slightly differently. And that slight difference means that my body won’t turn this sugar into calories.”

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