Non-nutritive sweetners contain no calories. These sweeteners have an intense, sweet taste and are used in minute quantities. They are normally mixed with a bulking agent into a powder or tablet form and called by their chemical names: polydextrose, maltodextrin or polysaccharide polyols.

If you use non-nutritive sweeteners, it is advisable to use a variety of different non-sweeteners anduse them in moderation (no more than 3-6 sachets or tablets a day). Diet cold drinks contain a significant amount of artificial sweetener and should beenjoyed in moderation - a maximum of one drink a day if necessary - as water isthe best drink for hydration. Try to get into the habit of drinking all your other beverages without sweetener.

Sugar alcohols

These polyol sweeteners occur naturally in plants and are concentrated and refined into sweeteners called xilitol, mannitol and sorbitol. They do not get fully absorbed by the gastro-intestinal tract and therefore provide half the calories of sucrose. They are used in toothpaste, chewing gums, and cold desserts as they lose their sweetness when exposed to heat. Consuming large quantities can have a laxative effect.

Acelfame K

This is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is found in a large variety of food products but, due to the small quantities used, it contains no calories and does not affect blood sugar levels. Acelfame K is normally blended with aspartame and saccharine. Blending is common practice in the manufacture of artificial sweetening products due to the synergistic effect; the sweeteners complement each other so less of each is needed to achieve thesame level of sweetness. Acelfame K is stable when heated and can be used for baking.


This sweetener, which is 220 times sweeter than sugar, is manufactured by isolating phenylalanine, an amino acid. In the body, aspartame is broken down into three products: aspartic acid, methanol and phenylalanine. Some information sources are making unfounded claims that these sweeteners can cause diseases such as cancer, epileptic fits to name only a few. This is not entirely true, as the developments of these serious diseases are caused by numerous factors other than sweetener use. Numerous studies have been conducted before any product is allowed to be put on the shelf. Studies conducted by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) Position Paper on Sweeteners show no side effects. The studies that have been done are mostly short term, and we are therefore not sure with regard to long term effects of the use of all sweeteners. Aspartame is unstable when heated and is not recommended for baking.


Known as sodium saccharine, this sweetener was approvedby the FDA (Food and Drug Administration of the USA) in 1977 and, after extensive testing, it was found to be non-carcinogenic. A dose of 12mg/kg/ideal body weight per day is recommended as safe to use.


Sucralose is a relatively new sweetener on the market. Its sucrose molecule has been chemically modified so that only a low 11-27 percent is absorbed, providing the body with a negligible amount of calories. Sucralose has no effect on blood glucose levels and has been proven not to have any neurological, reproductive or carcinogenic side effects. It is stable when heated and thus ideal for use when baking.

From an article in Diabetes Focus – an official publication of the South African Diabetes Association