Updated: Sep 1, 2022
Your brand’s taste is vastly important to its marketability. If consumers don’t like how it tastes, they won’t buy it again or recommend it to their friends. Given that most Americans have a sweet tooth, incorporating just the right touch of sweetness is a must. Is your brand struggling to find the perfect sweetness?
Numerous low-costing natural sweeteners are available. But many of these sweeteners especially regular sugar and high fructose corn syrup have high glycemic index (GI) ratings. Supplement users seeking to avoid weight gain or are struggling with type 2 diabetes will avoid purchasing supplements with added forms of sugar because of their negative effect on blood glucose levels.
Foods with high GI ratings quickly raise blood glucose levels. The body responds by spiking insulin and leptin levels to process the additional glucose. Spiked insulin and leptin levels put a noticeable strain on the body which is indicated by elevated blood pressure levels.
When looking for the right sweetener for your supplement brand, the sweetener’s health benefits must be a major factor in your decision. Other important components include its palatability, number of calories, cost*, and availability. Here is a compilation of available natural and artificial sweeteners and their average cost for your consideration.
Agave Nectar Is native to South America. It can be fermented to make a beverage. To acquire the sweetener, it is processed into a fructose syrup.
Sweetness – 1.5x sweeter than table sugar.
Pros - Low GI rating
Cons - Very high in fructose. Fructose is processed in the body by the liver. Consuming high levels of fructose is associated with fatty liver disease (Link :https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168827808001645) and may cause long-term increased blood sugar and insulin levels.
Cost - Low ($0.36/oz)
Coconut Sugar is made from the sap of coconut tree flowers.
Sweetness - Comparable to table sugar.
Pros - Advertised as more natural than white sugar.
Cons – Slightly lower GI rating than regular table sugar. However, it has close to the same number of calories and nutritional value as regular sugar.
Cost – Low ($0.35/oz)
Stevia Rebaudiana comes from the leaves of a shrub native to Brazil and Paraguay. These leave have been used in Japan for a long time for their sweetness.
Sweetness – 30x sweeter than table sugar. The distilled extract, steviol glycosides, is 250-300x sweeter.
Pros – Does not raise blood sugar levels or promote tooth decay. The Food and Drug Administration has not questioned the general safety of steviol glycosides (Link: https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/fda-basics/has-stevia-been-approved-fda-be-used-sweetener) for use in food.
Cons – Significant bitter after taste. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) feels stevia needs additional clinical safety trails.
Cost – High ($2.95/oz concentrated extract)
Thaumatin is derived from the West African katemfe fruit.
Sweetness – 2,000x sweeter than table sugar.
Pros - Effectively 0 calories.
Cons – Not yet approved by the FDA as a sweetener in the US. It has a licorice after taste some consumers find disagreeable.
Cost – Expensive ($6.24/oz) It must be shipped internationally.
Xylitol - Occurs naturally in small amounts in fibrous fruits and vegetables, trees and corncobs.
Sweetness – Comparable to table sugar
Pros – Fewer calories than table sugar. It does not promote tooth decay.
Cons – In large amounts (30-40 grams), it causes gastrointestinal distress with a laxative effect. In dogs, it is fatal in small quantities.
Cost – Low ($0.53/oz)
Artificial Sweetness - Sugar Substitutes
Recent studies (Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6363527/) show one of the side effects of artificial sweeteners in general are their harmful effects on gut flora. The changes in intestinal microbiota caused by regular consumption of artificial sweeteners might harm glucose tolerance. However, these effects may be negligible in dietary supplements because of the small amounts required for effective palatability.
Sweetness – 200x sweeter than table sugar
Pros – 0 calories.
Cons – In two rat studies, acesulfame potassium has been shown to cause cancer. In the body, it breaks down into acetoacetamide which in large dosages has been shown to affect the thyroid in rats, rabbits, and dogs. It comes through in breast milk. The CSPI feels acesulfame potassium needs further testing. (Link: https://www.cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine#acesulfamek)
Cost – Medium ($1.06/oz)+
Sweetness – 180-200x sweeter than table sugar.
Pros – Aspartame has been widely studied. The FDA, World Health Organization, and American Dietetic Association says it poses no threats when used in moderation.
Cons – Italian researchers found aspartame caused cancer in both rats and mice. A five-year study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found aspartame may increase the risk of cancer in males, but not females. This is due to males having a larger number of enzymes that break methanol, a breakdown component of aspartame, into formaldehyde a known human carcinogen. (Source: https://www.cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine#aspartame)
Cost – Low ($0.35/oz)
Advantame is made from aspartame and vanillin which the body processes differently than aspartame.
Sweetness – 20,000x sweeter than table sugar.
Pros – 0 calories. It is so sweet; the dosage is so low that any possible cancer risk is negligible. FDA approved its use in 2014. (Source: https://www.cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine#advantame)
Cons - Given advantame is new in the market with few sources for purchasing, the cost is prohibitive.
Cost – Very Expensive ($70.20/100 mg)+
Erythritol It is naturally occurring and is made from corn using enzymes and fermentation it is sugar-free and has been artificially made since 1990.
Sweetness – 60-70% as sweet as table sugar.
Pros – It has a twentieth of the calories of sugar. It can be easily mixed with other sweeteners like stevia to mask stevia’s bitter aftertaste.
Cons – May cause nausea when ingested in large amounts of 40-50 grams.
Cost – Low ($0.38)
Neotame is chemically related to aspartame.
Sweetness – 8,000x sweeter than table sugar and 40x sweeter than aspartame.
Pros - 0 calories. It is more chemically stable than aspartame. Neotame is not a cancer risk since the body processes it differently than aspartame. Approved by the FDA in 2002. (https://foodadditives.net/artificial-sweeteners/neotame/)
Cons – Mixed reviews on palatability. At this point, it is often mixed with other sweeteners for taste reasons.
Cost – Expensive ($39.76/oz)+
Saccharin is the first artificial zero-calorie sweetener. It was discovered in 1879 and used exclusively in Tab, the first diet soda marketed by Coca-Cola.
Sweetness – 350x sweeter than table sugar.
Pros – 0 calories.
Cons – Numerous Rat and Mice studies along with a human study links saccharin with bladder cancer, especially in males. In 2000, the US Department of Human Services removed saccharin from its list of cancer-causing chemicals due to decades of pressure from the diet food industry. (Source: https://www.cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine#saccharin)
Cost – Low ($0.36)
Sucralose Chemically made by reacting sucrose with chlorine.
Sweetness – 600x sweeter than table sugar.
Pros – 0 Calories. It has a GI of zero. It does not cause tooth decay.
Cons – Several studies show sucralose may negatively impact gut health. Individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or other GI issues may want to avoid sucralose (Source: https://www.cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine#sucralose).
Cost – Low ($0.45)
Our Commitment to Your Brand
Here at Origin Nutraceutical, we can help you determine the right sweetener for your brand based on your market focus. Contact us today! We would love to discuss all the different sweetener options and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
*Average cost determined via basic internet search of various vendors.
+ Cost from only one vendor.
Jacobsen, Michael F. “The 4 Safest Sugar Substitutes and a Few to Avoid Completely.” Nutrition Action. 2015. https://www.nutritionaction.com/daily/sugar-in-food/sugar-in-food-which-sweeteners-are-the-safest-and-which-should-you-avoid/
Betsh, Mara. “10 Artificial Sweetners and Sugar Substitues. Health. 2015. https://www.health.com/nutrition/10-artificial-sweeteners-and-sugar-substitutes
“Chemical Cuuisine.” Center for Science in the Public Interest. https://www.cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine#saib
“Low Glycemic Index Diet Found to Lower Health Threats from High Blood Pressure.” Diabetes.co.uk. 2017. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/news/2017/may/low-glycemic-index-diet-found-to-lower-health-threats-from-high-blood-pressure-99369714.html#:~:text=Taken%20together%2C%20these%20results%20tend,causes%20blood%20pressure%20to%20increase.
Leech, Joe. “Agave Nectar: A Sweetener That’s Even Worse than Sugar.” Healthline. 2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/agave-nectar-is-even-worse-than-sugar#what-it-is
Holland, Kimberly. “Coconut Sugar and Diabetes: Is it Safe?” Healthline. 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/coconut-sugar-glycemic-index#:~:text=Coconut%20sugar's%20average%20GI%20rating%20differs%20from%20source%20to%20source,body's%20glucose%2C%20or%20blood%20sugar.
Ruiz-Ojeda, Francisco Javier et al. “Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials.” Advances in Nutrition. 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6363527/
“Natural Sweeteners.” Food Additives. https://foodadditives.net/natural-sweeteners/