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Sugar alternatives - sweet without a guilty conscience?

Part 2 from the blog post:

How can you replace sugar in a healthy way? Which sugar alternatives are even real alternatives? Are there perhaps still promising options?

Knowledge for your ears!

No time to read? Here you can listen to Claire's article.

Table of Contents

• Sugar alternatives - sweet without a guilty conscience?
• What are functional sugars - why are they promising?
• The Taga Mix - our innovative sugar blend

Sugar alternatives - sweet without a guilty conscience?

For some time now, awareness of healthy eating has been changing. A healthy and conscious lifestyle is now considered desirable for many. Particularly with regard to sugar, "healthy" alternatives are now increasingly being offered or processed by the food industry. Are these substitutes or alternatives now really better, or do they actually do more harm than the usual household sugar?

Currently, eleven artificial sweeteners are approved in the EU. The best known are (saccharin, cyclamate, saccharin-cyclamate mixtures, aspartame, acesulfame, neohesperidin DC, thaumatin). They have no glycemic index and thus do not affect our blood sugar levels. However, in a study conducted in India, it was proven that insulin is nevertheless released via the pancreas. Our body expects glucose when we taste sweetness. If this is not met, the hypothalamus sends the signal "hunger"[1]. Another study shows that sweeteners can have a negative effect on our intestinal flora[2].
You should pay attention to the maximum consumption level of sweeteners set by the WHO, as severe symptoms can occur if exceeded[3].

Sugar alcohols: xylitol & erythritol
The best-known sugar alcohol is probably birch sugar (xylitol), which was originally produced from birch bark. In the meantime, xylitol is obtained from agricultural raw materials such as corn, wood, or straw. It protects teeth and has been shown to fight tooth decay bacteria. It is as sweet as table sugar, but has 40% fewer calories and has little effect on blood sugar levels. Xylitol does, however, have an impact on our gut microbiome. Here it can cause the change of bacterial strains. This can be beneficial if these strains proliferate too much, but it can also be detrimental[4].
Erythritol is derived from starch. It has no calories, as it is absorbed through the small intestine and 90% is excreted in the urine. This greatly reduces accompanying symptoms such as flatulence and diarrhea. For people who nevertheless have intestinal problems when taking erythritol, the prebiotic effect of erythritol probably kicks in. Just like xylitol, erythritol affects the growth of some bacterial strains and may additionally slightly increase the formation of butyrate (an important product for intestinal health)[5].

Fructose in the form of agave syrup and fruit syrups
Agave syrup has a low glycemic index and is even sweeter than table sugar. This is due to the high proportion of fructose, which is also known as fruit sugar. Our body can only break down fructose in the liver. If we consume in too large quantities, it is overloaded and stores the fructose. This can lead to fatty liver or even cirrhosis in the long term [6].
In addition, too much fructose consumption can disrupt metabolism, increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and promote insulin resistance[7]. Too much fructose can cause digestive problems. If you are allergic to fructose, you should avoid these sweeteners. Pay attention to the amount of fructose you consume. Humans can metabolize about 25–80 grams of fructose per day.

Honey is probably the oldest sweetener and was already called the food of the gods in ancient Egypt. Honey contains minerals and vitamins, and has always been used for its anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties.
Nevertheless, honey consists of 80% glucose and fructose, so you have to pay attention to the recommended daily amount. Honey should not be heated, so that the valuable ingredients are preserved.

Maple syrup
The syrup, which comes from Canada, consists of 60% sugar and is therefore less sweet. It has a typical caramel-like aroma and contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances. The glycemic index is 55. With maple syrup should be paid attention to the quality and ingredients, because this is often stretched with sugar water in low quality. Again, pay attention to the quantity so you don't exceed the recommended daily allowance of sugar. Also, like honey, it should not be heated.

Coconut blossom sugar or coconut blossom syrup
Coconut blossom sugar consists almost exclusively of sucrose and has just as many calories. However, it also contains vitamins, minerals and the fiber inulin. The glycemic index is 35, so it hardly raises blood sugar levels. Coconut blossom sugar is a sustainable alternative, but also the most expensive. Here it is also necessary that you pay attention to the amount consumed.

Sweet herb stevia
Stevia, also called honey herb, contains no calories and no sugar. Therefore, it does not raise blood sugar levels and is suitable for diabetics. The stevioside contained in stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar.
The dried herb is a natural product and has a licorice-like, bitter aftertaste. Steviosides are used in the food industry. These are chemically extracted components of the stevia plant.
This extract can no longer really be called natural. Stevia has been approved in the EU under the number E960, and the maximum daily amount is set at 4 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

Even with these sugar alternatives, enjoyment without a guilty conscience is only possible to a limited extent:
As you can see from the descriptions of each sugar alternative, they also have some drawbacks that you should be aware of.
For the most part, they still contain fructose, glucose and sucrose, so you have to pay attention to the recommended daily amount - just like with sugar. Some alternatives should not be heated, such as honey and maple syrup. Some can cause digestive problems, such as fructose, sugar alcohols, or some sweeteners. With some sweeteners, you should watch the maximum recommended intake. In addition, sweeteners and steviol glycosides are not natural products, but are chemically produced or highly processed.

Below you will find two promising sugar alternatives with benefits for your health.

What are functional sugars - why are they promising?

Dr. Coy recommends a diet with what he calls "smart sugars". Learn more about tagatose and galactose below.

Tagatose is a natural simple sugar and structurally similar to fructose, but has a major advantage in comparison. It has a much lower absorption rate. Only 20% of the ingested tagatose is absorbed in the small intestine and subsequently metabolized via the same metabolic pathways as fructose. The remaining 80 % reaches the large intestine where it is utilized and fermented by intestinal bacteria[8]. This fermentation leads to a greatly increased formation of butyrate[9]. This fatty acid promotes gut health and also influences metabolism [10].

Tagatose is tooth-friendly according to studies in Zurich and is not metabolized by caries-causing bacteria [11]. Tagatose has a sweetening power of 92%, the glycemic index is 7.5 due to the low intake [12].

Galactose - the brain sugar
Galactose is also called mucus sugar because it is bound to a protein (glycoprotein) and occurs in the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth and stomach. Galactose is utilized independently of the hormone insulin. It is a very valuable source of energy for our brain and supports our memory performance independently of insulin. In contrast to glucose, galactose is only metabolized by the mitochondria, so it fires up aerobic combustion, which provides significantly more energy. Especially in cells with perturbations in this area, galactose may therefore enhance mitochondrial utilization[13]. It is also an essential component of glycoproteins and glycolipids - which our bodies need for neuronal growth and function. Galactose is a natural sugar, it is found mainly as a building block in dairy products (lactose = galactose + glucose) and in plants with multiple sugars (legumes, sugar beets). Free galactose is found almost exclusively in fermented foods.

Another advantage of galactose, besides providing energy, is its tooth-protecting effect. According to one study, it can reduce plaque formation in teeth because this sugar blocks docking sites on the tooth surface, minimizing the attachment of caries-promoting bacteria[14].

Galactose has a sweetening power of 45-60 and a glycemic index of 20.

Why a combination of tagatose and galactose is the best choice
The combination of galactose and tagatose provides a sugar alternative that ensures energy supply through galactose without affecting insulin levels. United with tagatose, which helps maintain tooth mineralization, as well as provides pleasant sweetness.

The right amount and the right sweeteners are important for a healthy approach to sugar
Avoiding sugar is difficult from a nutritional point of view. As you could read in this article, our body needs sugar mainly as a source of energy, but also for other processes. You can't classify sugar as bad per se, but as is often the case, the right and moderate amount is crucial. One way to limit the amount of household sugar is to replace it with other types of sugar.

Sugar and sugar substitutes in the right dosage can bring some benefits, such as providing energy, protecting teeth and reducing stress.

So it's not a matter of doing without, but of choosing wisely.

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[1]: Swithers, S. E., & Davidson, T. L. (2008). A role for sweet taste: Calorie predictive relations in energy regulation by rats. Behavioral Neuroscience, 122(1), 161–173.

[2]: Shil, A., & Chichger, H. (2021). Artificial Sweeteners Negatively Regulate Pathogenic Characteristics of Two Model Gut Bacteria, E. coli and E. faecalis. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22.

[3]: Choudhary, A., Lee, Y. Y. (2018). The debate over neurotransmitter interaction in aspartame usage. Journal of Clinical Neuroscience. 56. 10.1016/j.jocn.2018.06.043.

[4]: Uebanso, T., Kano, S., Yoshimoto, A., Naito, C., Shimohata, T., Mawatari, K., & Takahashi, A. (2017). Effects of Consuming Xylitol on Gut Microbiota and Lipid Metabolism in Mice. Nutrients, 9(7), 756.

[5]: Mahalak, K. K., Firrman, J., Tomasula, P. M., Nuñez, A., Lee, J. J., Bittinger, K., Rinaldi, W., & Liu, L. S. (2020). Impact of Steviol Glycosides and Erythritol on the Human and Cebus apella Gut Microbiome. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 68(46), 13093–13101.

[6]: Jensen, T., Abdelmalek, M. F., Sullivan, S., Nadeau, K. J., Green, M., Roncal, C., Nakagawa, T., Kuwabara, M., Sato, Y., Kang, D. H., Tolan, D. R., Sanchez-Lozada, L. G., Rosen, H. R., Lanaspa, M. A., Diehl, A. M., & Johnson, R. J. (2018). Fructose and sugar: A major mediator of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Journal of hepatology, 68(5), 1063–1075.

[7]: Zuletzt aufgerufen am 14.06.2022.

[8]: Bertelsen, H. Andersen, H., Tvede, M. (2001). Fermentation of D-Tagatose by Human Intestinal Bacteria and Dairy Lactic Acid Bacteria, Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, 13:2, 87-95, DOI: 10.1080/08910600119905

[9]: Venema, K., Vermunt S. H. F. & Brink E. J. (2005). D-Tagatose increases butyrate production by the colonic microbiota in healthy men and women. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, 17(1), 47-57.­08910600510035093

[10]: Bridgeman, S. C., Northrop, W., Melton, P. E., Ellison, G. C., Newsholme, P., & Mamotte, C. (2020). Butyrate generated by gut microbiota and its therapeutic role in metabolic syndrome. Pharmacological research, 160, 105174.

[11]: Imfeld, T. (1996): Telemetric evaluation of D-tagtose provided by MD Foods Ingredients Amba, Denmark, with regard to the product’s qualification as being safe for teeth“. Dental Institute, University of Zurich, Switzerland

[12]:­zuckeralternativen-auf-den-zahn-gefuehlt-was-steckt-drin-in-den-neuen-suessen/. Zuletzt aufgerufen am 14.06.2022.

[13]: Aguer, C., Gambarotta, D., Mailloux, R. J., Moffat, C., Dent, R., McPherson, R., & Harper, M. E. (2011). Galactose enhances oxidative metabolism and reveals mitochondrial dysfunction in human primary muscle cells. PloS one, 6(12), e28536.­journal.pone.0028536

[14]: Lembke, A., Pause, B. (1989). Uber die kariostatische Wirksamkeit von D(+)-Galaktose [Anticaries effectiveness of D(+)-galactose]. Zeitschrift fur Stomatologie, 86(4), 179–189.