Types of Sugar

images (1)Nutritional Meeting - October 14, 2013

Glucose is the sugar in blood, and dextrose is the name given to glucose produced from corn. Biochemically they are identical.

Fructose is the principal sugar in fruit. In fruit, it raises no issues because it is accompanied by nutrients and fiber.

Sucrose is table sugar. It is a double sugar, containing one part each of glucose (50%) and fructose (50%), chemically bound together. Enzymes in the intestine quickly and efficiently split sucrose into glucose and fructose, which are absorbed into the body as single sugars.

HFCS is made from corn starch. It contains roughly equivalent amounts of glucose (45 to 58%) and fructose (42 to 55%).

Galactose: found in milk and dairy products

Lactose: found in milk, made from glucose and galactose

Maltose: found in barley

Sucrose: made up of glucose and fructose and found in plants

Xylose: found in wood or straw

The Difference between Sugar and High-fructose Corn Syrup

  • Sucrose and HFCS are very similar in regards to how much fructose they contribute, they are essentially equivalent however HFCS is not found in nature.  HFCS is an inexpensive sweetener made from genetically-modified corn
  • It’s enzymatically processed from cornstarch into a liquid sweetener & one or two of the enzymes are also genetically engineered
  • There is also no organic HFCS available, because organic standards prohibit genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)
  • Comes from corn & not sugarcane or sugar beets
  • The syrup has become popular for food makers because it’s cheaper than white sugar
  • Viewed as unhealthy and fattening since it is artificial because the production process requires the addition of enzymes that changes the molecular

Is Honey the Same as Sugar

  • Both a teaspoon of table sugar and a teaspoon of honey contain 4 to 5 grams of carbohydrate
  • This isn’t a very large amount and isn’t very likely to have much of an effect on blood glucose
  • If you eat too much of any carbohydrate-containing food, it will affect your blood glucose level.

Agave Nectar vs. Honey

  • The agave nectar is about 1.5 times sweeter than honey
  • wide variety of flavors, which makes it a suitable additive for most foods
  • The nectar does not impact the nutritional balance of food
  • Agave nectar is a plant product, meaning that it is a perfect alternative for vegans and vegetarians
  • In comparison to honey, agave nectar has a very low-glycemic index, and it is a safe sweetener for diabetics and does not spike blood-sugar levels or stimulate insulin response
  • Rather than increasing body fats, agave nectar assists in the breaking down of body fats through the gallbladder
  • Unlike honey, which causes bacterial diseases such as botulism in babies, agave nectar is safe for consumption by babies, because it does not contain any bacteria

Coconut Sugar

  • All natural sweetener  with a low GI index, similar to fruit, so it is good for Diabetics
  • Higher in Potassium than other sugars so it has some nutritional value
  • Watch for commercial brands that tend to mix coconut sugar with cane sugar


  • Sold under the brand names Equal®NutraSweet®, and NatraTaste® and is derived from a combination of two amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine
  • It was discovered in 1965 by chemist when he licked his finger to pick up a piece of paper while testing a new anti-ulcer drug
  • Aspartame is 180 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, so only very tiny amounts are necessary to sweeten a food or beverage
  • When digested, aspartame breaks down into three components: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol (wood alcohol). People with the rare genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) should avoid aspartame because their bodies are deficient in the enzyme that breaks down phenylalanine. If they consume foods or beverages containing significant amounts of phenylalanine, it can build up in their bodies and can cause mental impairment and possibly brain damage. Newborns are routinely checked for PKU
  • Because aspartame breaks down in heat, it is not generally used in baked or heated foods
  • It can be found in over 6,000 products including carbonated soft drinks, powdered soft drinks, chewing gum, confections, gelatins, dessert mixes, puddings and fillings, frozen desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops
  • There appears to be more controversy over the safety of aspartame than any other artificial sweetener. It is blamed for a number of health problems, including headaches, seizures, chronic fatigue syndrome, memory loss, and dizziness. It has also been associated with an increase in multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Critics of aspartame claim that although aspartame’s two amino acids are a natural part of our diets, when they are consumed normally in food they appear with many other amino acids that cancel out any negative effects. When these amino acids are on their own, as they are in aspartame, the concern is that they enter the central nervous system in abnormally high concentrations.


  • Also known as acesulfame potassium and acesulfame K & discovered in 1967
  • Is a synthetic chemical that is roughly 200 times sweeter than sugar
  • Our bodies can’t metabolize it, which is why it’s considered low calorie
  • Acesulfame is made from a process involving acetoacetic acid and its combination with potassium
  • Is found in more than 4,000 products around the world. In the United States, acesulfame potassium has been approved for use in candies, tabletop sweeteners, chewing gums, beverages, dessert and dairy product mixes, baked goods, alcoholic beverages, syrups, refrigerated and frozen desserts, and sweet sauces and toppings
  • Acesulfame is often blended with other artificial sweeteners to produce a more sugar-like taste.


  • Saccharin is a synthetic chemical that was discovered in 1879 and was the first artificial sweetener created when 2 when a vessel boiled over in the lab where they were creating new chemical dyes from coal tar derivatives. One of the chemists forgot to wash his hands before eating and noticed that his fingers tasted sweet
  • Saccharin is 300 times sweeter than sugar and not metabolized by the body, so it has no calories
  • There are very few products that contain saccharin these days. Some fountain sodas use a blend of saccharin and aspartame & is still available as Sweet ‘N Low
  • Carries a warning label that stated it had been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals


  • To create sucralose, three of the hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) groups in a sugar molecule are replaced with three chlorine (Cl) atoms. At that point it is no longer sugar — it is an artificial sweetener that is 600 times sweeter than sugar
  • Sucralose isn’t metabolized by the body, so it has virtually no calories
  • The chlorine that prevents it from being absorbed by the body also gives it the ability to withstand enough heat to be used in baking
  • Marketed as Splenda®, and is the fastest growing artificial sweetener on the market
  • It can be found in everything from frozen desserts, to sodas, to cookies, gum, and candies. Sucralose is sold in bulk for baking and is available in a small yellow packet for sweetening your coffee or tea
  • There is controversy is over the way Sucralose is marketed as Splenda. Because of their tagline, “Splenda is made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar,” many people believe that Splenda is a natural sweetener and therefore healthier, which isn’t the case. Because there have been no long-term studies, no one really knows if sucralose is healthier than other artificial sweeteners.


  • Stevia is a natural sweetener that is extracted from a plant native to Brazil and Paraguay and has been used as a sweetener in other countries for centuries
  • It is roughly 300 times sweeter than sugar and is not metabolized by our bodies, so it has no calories
  • While advocates of quote studies that show no adverse reactions or effects of the sweetener, other studies have shown that may lead to lower production of sperm and fewer and smaller offspring
  • The FDA has not approved for use in food, but it can be sold as a supplement

Sugar Alcohols

  • Sugar alcohols are made from adding hydrogen atoms to sugars
  • They can occur naturally in foods such as fruits and berries
  • Sugar alcohols have about one-half to one-third fewer calories than regular sugar, because they convert to glucose more slowly. They don’t usually cause sudden increases in blood sugar, so can be used in moderation by diabetics. Some people with Type I diabetes have found that their blood sugars will rise if they consume sugar alcohols in large amounts
  • The caloric content varies by specific sugar alcohol. Erythritol, for example, is not absorbed as easily as others, so it essentially has no calories. Some of the other sugar alcohols can have almost as many calories as sugar, so they’re not necessarily used in “diet” foods, but in sugar-free gum
  • Sugar alcohols are found in many sugar-free processed foods, such as hard candies, cookies, chewing gums, soft drinks, throat lozenges, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Look on product labels for mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, erythritol, maltitol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH)
  • The FDA requires products that contain what would equate to a daily dose of 50 grams or sorbitol or 20 grams of mannitol to be labeled with a “laxative effect” warning. This is because higher levels of sugar alcohols unabsorbed in the intestines can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, only 10 grams of sorbitol can cause GI distress

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