The “Sugar Substitute Rabbit Hole” Episode of The Foodcast is Now Live

Artificial Sweeteners, what a “rabbit hole!” By rabbit hole, I refer to the Wikipedia definition, “a metaphor for an entry into the unknown, the disorientating or the mentally deranging, from its use in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” 

In this metaphor, artificial sweeteners stand in for the rabbit. I’m Alice (although I look better in a navy blue dress than a sky blue one). The hole is a symbol for my attempt to make sense of this topic. In this episode of The Foodcast, we explore the usual science, history, politics and culture of sugar substitutes. Sprinkled throughout is advice on how to have healthy relationship with these substances.

00:46     Introduction

  • Episode 0016 – Bugs

01:52     Background Info

  • Episode 0031 – Food Wonk

06:17     What Do Government Experts Say?

18:55     Are All Sugar Substitutes the Same?

24:51     What Does the Research Say?

38:02     What Should I Do Next

  • Get Your Copy of The Karma Sense Eating Plan
  • Nutrition Diva’s Advice For Fake Sugar
    • 3 packets of Splenda, Equal, Truvia, Stevia in the Raw, or Monkfruit in the Raw
    • 6 teaspoons (2 tablespoons) Splenda granulated sweetener or Equal Spoonful
    • 6 teaspoons (2 tablespoons) Stevia or Monk Fruit in the Raw Baker’s Bag
    • 6 teaspoons (2 tablespoons) Lakanto or Laktano Golden
    • 6 teaspoons (2 tablespoons) Erythritol
    • 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) of Splenda Sugar Blend or Brown Sugar Blend
    • 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) of Truvia Baking Blend or Brown Sugar Blend
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons of Truvia Spoonable
    • 12 ounces of diet soda, tea, or Crystal Lite
  • Detailed Reference of Fake Sugar

Artificial Sweeteners

Most artificial sweeteners share these features:

  • No calories.
  • Made in factories.
  • Strong concerns about safety but weak evidence.
  • There is no end to Big Food’s ingenuity when it comes to making us crave disgusting food with no redeeming value. New artificial sweeteners are invented all the time and it takes a while for them to actually infiltrate our food supply.
  • Taste gross.
  • So sickeningly sweet that they undermine your appreciation for real and delicious food.
Artificial Sweeteners
Name Used In? Comment
Aspartame Nutrasweet, Equal, Sugar Twin, Canderel
  • Can’t be metabolized by people with phenylketonuria (PKU). If you don’t know what PKU is, you probably don’t have to worry.
  • Some people experience headaches.
  • People with mood disorders may be susceptible to depression.
  • Promotes certain bad bacteria. These happen to be the same ones starved by Xylitol (discussed below).
ACE-K (E950) Sunnet, Sweet One
  • Full name is Acesulfame potassium.
  •  Not yet in general use.
  • Occurs in nature but not in quantities that can fill demand. Thus, it’s always made in a factory and therefore artificial.
Aspartame-acesulfame salt  Twinsweet
  •  Banned in US.
Neotame Newtame
  • Not approved in US.
Saccharin Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin, Equal, Necta Sweet
  • Some people are allergic and may experience typical allergy symptoms.
  • Promotes certain bad bacteria. These happen to be the same ones starved by Xylitol (still discussed below).
Sucralose Splenda
Tagatose  Allsweet, Naturelose
  • Occurs in nature but not in quantities that can fill demand. Thus, it’s always made in a factory and therefore artificial.
  • A potential carrier for good gut bacteria strains so hits two Big Food marketing hot buttons of low calorie and probiotic. Coming from your neighborhood girl scout soon, New Diet Probiotic Tagatose Tagalongs.

Sugar Alcohols

Most sugar alcohols share these features

  • Occur in nature but usually made in labs to increase yield.
  • Cause bellyaches and upset gut bacteria.
  • Less sweet than sugar.
  • Have calories but fewer than real sugar.
  • Usually used in combination with other sugar substitutes to add bulk to their packaging and to help disguise the fact that the other substitutes taste gross. Most artificial sweeteners are so sweet that it takes an infinitesimally small amount to satisfy a sweet tooth. Big Food adds bulking agents like sugar alcohols to “fill out” those little paper packets and to help mask the gym sock taste.
Sugar Alcohols
Name Used In? Comments
Erythirol Truvia, Zerose, Nectresse, MonkSweet+
  • Has about 6% the calories of regular sugar while most other sugar alcohols have 40-90%.
  • Least objectionable taste.
  • Not usually associated with that explosive diarrhea affect most common with other sugar alcohols.
  • Full name Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates. Don’t worry about the word “hydrogenated” here. HSH is not gross like partially hydrogenated oils. It has it’s own unique reason to be gross (gym socks)
Isomalt  Palitinit
  • Promotes good dental hygiene by starving bad bacteria in mouth.
  • Appears to fight other common infections as well.
  • Aspartame and saccharin feed the very same mouth bacteria starved by Xylitol.
  • Poisonous to dogs.

Natural Sugar Substitutes

Most natural sugar substitutes share these common features:

  • Yield from natural means is not likely to keep up with demand. Big Food is lobbying the FDA to allow them to call factory-made versions “natural.”
  • Often blended with “unnatural” artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols.
Natural Sugar Substitutes
Name Used In? Comments
Stevia EverSweet, Purevia, Truvia, Stevia in the Raw, MonkSweet+, STEVE-IA (for Breaking Bad fans)
  • Less expensive than monk fruit as it’s made from leaves. Leaves are usually more plentiful in plants than the fruit. I know, I have a strong handle on the obvious.
Monkfruit Nectresse, MonkSweet +, Monkfruit In The Raw
  • Most people find Monkfruit to have the least funky (not gross) flavor of all the sugar substitutes.

48:31     Wrap Up

For complete show notes, head on over to

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