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Stevia FAQ

Questions and answers about stevia sweeteners.

How does stevia compare with other sugar substitutes? continued...

Acesulfame-K, or Ace-K

  • What is it? Acetoacetic acid and the mineral potassium.
  • How it's used: Usually in gums, confections, cough drops, and carbonated and alcoholic beverages, often in combination with another sweetener. Also sold as Sunett or Sweet One.
  • Advantages: Extends shelf life of diet drinks. Can be used for cooking and baking. Not metabolized or absorbed by the body.
  • Drawbacks: Government health agencies say it is safe. The CSPI advises avoiding it and has asked the FDA to require more tests. Can taste bitter on its own; better tasting when blended with other sweeteners.

Sucralose

  • What is it? A sugar molecule chemically altered by replacing three hydroxyl groups with three atoms of chlorine.
  • How it's used: Splenda tabletop sweetener and baking products. Also in yogurt, fruit juices, ice cream, dairy products, some diet beverages, and flavored waters, sometimes combined with Ace-K.
  • Advantages: Consumer groups have not raised the safety concerns with sucralose that they have with other sweeteners. Can be used in baked goods more readily than other artificial sweeteners. No effect on blood sugar levels.
  • Drawbacks: Although better suited for baking than other artificial sweeteners, it's still not a perfect substitute for sugar.

Neotame

  • What is it? A derivative of a combination of two amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine.
  • How it's used: Sweetener and flavor enhancer for other ingredients, such as mint. In some store-brand juices and gums.
  • Advantages: More stable than aspartame, meaning a better fit for baked goods. Although it shares some ingredients with aspartame, neotame has not prompted the same safety concerns with consumer groups. It does not carry a warning label for people with PKU.
  • Drawbacks: Rarely used.

Stevia

  • What is it: Extract from the stevia plant.
  • How it's used: Dietary supplement and tabletop sweetener.
  • Advantages: Less is more. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar, so less is needed. It is an option for people with diabetes as it does not affect blood sugar levels.
  • Drawbacks: Some extracts have a bitter taste. It is billed as "natural," but technically is processed.

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Reviewed on September 17, 2010

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