The best artificial sweeteners

Our new recipes, such as New York Style Cheesecake and Chocolate Coconut Bread, are wheat-free and low- or no-carbohydrate. They fit perfectly into the New Track Your Plaque Diet for gaining control over coronary atherosclerotic plaque, not to mention diabetes, pre-diabetes, hypertension, small LDL particles, high triglycerides, high inflammation (c-reactive protein) and other distortions of metabolism.

However, there's one compromise: We include use of non-nutritive sweeteners. It's therefore important to know that artificial sweeteners are not all created equal.

One common tripping point: maltodextrin.

Maltodextrin is composed of polymers (repeating subunits) of glucose, as few as 3 or as many as 20 or more glucose subunits. So maltodextrin is glucose sugar. While it lacks the especially destructive pentose sugar, fructose, maltodextrin is metabolized to glucose and thereby increases blood sugar substantially.

Many artificial sweeteners are bulked up with maltodextrin. For instance, granulated Splenda and Stevia in the Raw, two sweeteners billed as low-calorie and sugar-free that is used on a cup-for-cup basis like sugar, are primarily maltodextrin--with only a teensy bit of Splenda or stevia.

The best artificial sweeteners, i.e., the most benign without a load of maltodextrin, are:

Liquid stevia--Just the extract from stevia leaves and water. It can be a bit pricey, e.g., $10 for a 2 oz bottle, but a little goes a long way.

Truvia--While I'm not too fond of the manufacturer (Cargill), I believe that Truvia is among the better sweeteners around. It is a mixture of the natural sugar, erythritol, that generates little to no blood sugar effects and rebiana (rebaudioside), an isolate of stevia. Some people aren't too fond of the mild menthol-like cooling effect of the erythritol nor the slight aftertaste. I find it works pretty well in most recipes.

Be aware that, no matter which artificial sweetener you use, it has the potential to stimulate appetite. I therefore like to not eat foods sweetened with liquid stevia or Truvia in isolation but as part of a meal. That way, any appetite stimulation that results is substantially quelled by the proteins and fats ingested.

Comments (23) -

  • Princess Dieter

    8/12/2011 11:53:20 PM |

    Thank you for the link. I was just talking with hubby last night about finding a recipe for cheesecake that had no wheat/gluten and would be good for us for special treats/occasions (like an upcoming family birthday). Yay.

  • pjnoir

    8/13/2011 2:52:19 AM |

    I never use Truvia. The best stavia hands down is SweetLeaf, either the liquid or the powder. BUT Stevia acts like insulin, in fact, Asia has been using it as an insulin substitute and comes with a warning to diabetics about using it with one’s daily  insulin shots.   I stopped using it as I don’t need to rev up by insulin production.  I’m diabetic. I still go with local honey and get the benefits of having local pollen in my body.

  • Shreela

    8/13/2011 3:27:35 AM |

    Both DH and I noticed the aftertaste. I figured out how to use half stevia/half sugar for a few days, then 1/4 each, then all stevia, which solved the aftertaste problem for me. I then tried one teaspoon of sugar to a quart of stevia-sweetened tea with DH - he didn't notice any weird taste. So hopefully just adding a tiny bit of sugar for 1-2 weeks will get your taste buds used to stevia.

  • Gabriella Kadar

    8/13/2011 3:29:15 AM |

    Why do people feel the need to eat desserts?  Doesn't adherence to a consistent low carb diet eventually curb most of the craving for sweets?  One teaspoon of fruit jam should be able to quell any overweening desire.  Or is the socio-cultural programming for eating confections so deeply ingrained that people just can't live without?

  • Michia

    8/13/2011 9:06:53 AM |

    I agree.  In our house (LC for years), the same logic applies to low carb "treats" that applies to low carb Frankenfoods.  Don't eat foods that are trying to be foods that you know you can no longer have.  

    There is a real danger in continuing to eat really sweet foods, even artificially sweetened.  "Low carb" needs to be "low sweet".  If you hang in there, you do eventually lose your taste for it.  

    As for Splenda, you can find the liquid if  you try.  And the mini tablets are minimally carby.

  • cancerclasses

    8/13/2011 6:13:31 PM |

    Both cancer & systemic fungi make energy by means of glycolysis and create demands for large amounts of sugars.  People with continuing carb cravings that won't resolve may have one or the other condition.  Otherwise I'm with you, people hanging onto sweets are still living to eat rather than eating to live.

  • Might-o'chondri-AL

    8/13/2011 7:27:21 PM |

    Hi Dr. Davis,
    Server blocked me elsewhere, so writing this here.
    Amazake data when made from white rice (brown, short & long may each differ) =
    30 - 70 % complex carbohydrate saccharides
    20 - 45 % maltose (not amylose)
    3 - 5 % glucose
    5 - 9 % protein
    3 - 5% fat
    1 - 7 % fiber
    0.3 - 0.4 % mineral ash
    iron, niacin & thiamine

    Sample 1 liter (1 quart) sauce pan Amazake home kitchen batch:
    200 ml ( 7 ounce volume, +/- 200 grams) short grain brown rice rinsed and drained
    bring to boil  in 2.5 times the volume water
    reduce heat to low and, covered,  cook 50 - 60 minutes (until not wet)
    transfer cooked rice to an incubation vessel & let cool
    when cooled to  60* Celcius (140 * F) mix with 400 ml (14 ounce volume) of Koji innoculant
    cover with aluminum foil (or somehow) and put where can keep warm
    incubation ideal temperature is 57 - 60 * C  (with leeway)
    ferment for  desired time , 12 hours sweeter and I use 22 hours
    when time up pan boil the Amazake (stir) 3- 5 minutes to inactivate Koji fungi
    refrigerated covered keeps weeks

    Dosages mentioned previously (for 165 pound adult, and Amazake was eaten with protein and fat):
    (a) " low" dose with 2 hour blood glucose ending up being same as pre-prandial blood glucose was 1/8th (by volume) of the above Amazake (rough calculation would thus be ingesting 1/8th  of  +/- 600 grams  total of original dry rice and Koji rice)
    (b) "high" dose with 2 hour blood glucose rebound (suggested for athletes carbs) was 1/4 (by volume) of the above Amazake recipe (rough calculation  would in this case be ingesting 1/4 of +/- 600 grams total of original dry rice and Koji rice)

    Koji innoculant ( steamed white glutinous rice infused with Aspergillus oryzae and then dessicated) used was wholesale direct from L.A. producer Miyako Oriental Foods 626-962-9633; call for your local retailer of their Koji under the "Cold Mountain" brand. They recommend double their Koji for any volume of rice substrate. Other makers of Koji proportions may be less if the Koji is less dehydrated; family business G.E.M. Cultures in Wash. mail orders their Koji and it may (?) be suitable for using less (GEM also sells spores with instructions to make your own Koji).

  • Might-o'chondri-AL

    8/13/2011 7:43:26 PM |

    Dr. Davis,
    Orientation for those athletes interested in experimenting with Amazake:
    Innoculant of rice is Aspergillus oryzae fungal infused rice grains, called Koji; Koji has alpha-amylase, glyco-amylase, acid protease, lipase, amylo-glucosidase , acid carboxy-peptidase , chitosinase and citric acid.
    Incubation lets fungal penetrate new rice substrate and fungal hyphal tip performs hydrolytic enzyme secretion.

    Cooking the rice first gelatinizes the starch held in granules inside of organelles with lipoprotein membranes (amyloplasts) into 16 - 30% amylose and 65 - 85 % amylopectin which are ammenable to hyphal hydrolytic action. Koji's amylo-glucosidase enzyme digests the gel &  Koji's alpha amylase enzyme reduces molecular size of amylose, which makes it less viscous and more fluidly mobile. It is glyco-amylase enzyme that turns amylose and some of the amylo-pectin chains  into glucose.
    Incubation lets the fungi grow and their mycellial cell wall builds up with the amino mono-saccharide glucosamine (a.k.a. chitosan); fungi generally have 67 - 126 mg mycelial glucosamine per 1 gram dry weight mycellium. Amazake is well tolerated by most since glucosamine is useful in colitis. Glucosamine (chitosan) is a poly-cationic bio-polymer formed when chitosanase I enzyme de-acetylates chitin (in fiber); with optimal enzymatic pH being 5.5 - 6.5. Chitosan is more acid pH soluble than chitin and under chitosanase II enzyme (working from pH 3.8 -8.5) some chitin is de-acetylated to form more oligo-saccharides.

    Amazake may have biologically active high molecular weight immunological poly-anionic polysaccharide
    derivatives like the poly-acetyl carboxylic acid  COAM (chlorite oxidase oxy-amylose). COAM comes about when a saccharide chain is oxidatively cleaved between 2 carbon atoms resulting in oxy-amylose, a polymer of 2 aldehyde functions;  when these aldehydes gets further oxidized they produce functional carboxyls.  Rice has aldehydes like the volatile aldehyde hexanal we smell as stored rice &/or from rice bran.

    Rice, like most bean & grain carbohydrate polysaccharides, include the following in both the soluble and insoluble form: arabinoxylan, beta-glucan, cellulose, mannose, galactose, xylose and uronic acid. For us these non-starch  polysaccharides are not digestible;  as neither is fiber (made up of cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin and lignan ) since 90% of our dietary fiber is linked together by beta-glycosides that our digestive enzymes can't cleave. Arabinoxylan, mannan, galacto-mannan and xylan are considered anti-nutritional since can lower intestinal uptake of nutrients; while mannose reacts with amino groups in dietary protein to reduce the amount of certain aminos properly digested.

    Koji's fungal hyphal hydrolytic enzymes include mannosidase enzymes; beta mannanase catalyses the mannosidic links in insoluble mannan polysacharides where there are galactosyl residual features.  The  so-called endo-mannanase (a manno -hydrolase) cleaves mannan and galactomannan to free up molecules like manno-triose, manno-biose and manno-tetraose that human gut Bifidobacteria can then feed on. This may be part of why a substantial dose of Amazake seems to yield more delivery of  sustained energy beyond what one would get from the usual amount of short chain fatty acids put out by gut bacteria.

    Amazake incubation is a solid state fermentation, since want the minimal free fluid when culturing;  too much water and the substrate porosity is diminished and resultant depressed oxygen transport in substrate  causes fungal cell numbers to decline. A  submerged fungal ferment, when cooked rice with koji substrate is set out  too soupy can result in 3.5 times less enzymatic activity. Using  too much rice substrate mixed with too sparse koji innoculant and the fermentation won't proceed promptly due to low oxygen. Also do not stir the blend while incubating to avoid damaging mature fungal hyphae or breaking new growth.

    Mannanase enzyme development in 1st day is less than 50 units/gram and this goes to a maximum of 100 units/gram after 2 days; a peak mannanase content seems to be +/- 250 units/gram on days 3-5. I incubate short grain brown rice Amazake for 22 hours; while most commercial Amazake products and home producers probably do not incubate more than 12 hours. The longer incubation is allowed to go on for the more llikely bitter flavors develop from oxidation of the bran's oil content;  yet the bran is desired for it affords better beta- mannanase and beta-mannosidase enzymatic formation.

    Amazake has exceptional anti-oxidant properties; with longer incubation time this activity increases. Amazake also raises the bodies ability to inhibit lipid peroxidation; so concern over any of rice bran's oil oxidation is probably moot.

  • Elenor

    8/14/2011 5:13:52 PM |

    You don't mention liquid surcralose (Splenda)  -- which has all the 'benefits' of sucralose without the maltodextrin.  I use it and nothing else.

  • Dr. William Davis

    8/15/2011 12:51:28 PM |

    Wow, Might. You are a walking Wikipedia!

    Thanks for the incredible insights.

  • Marlene

    8/15/2011 5:44:10 PM |

    I have never been able to find liquid Splenda in stores in the U.S.  If it's there, what brand name is it sold under?

  • ibh

    8/15/2011 8:36:23 PM |

    I use Sweet Leaf as well. It is in the powder from. the box states no chemicals,no alcohols, no erythritol, no ethanol or menthol,, no aspartame, no sucralose, no maltodextrin, no dextrose or additivees. Seems clean to me. Any thoughts as to problems with this product.

  • Anonymous

    8/15/2011 8:36:54 PM |

    Doc, also notice the removal of all of Might's comments from Guyenet's site. This speaks for itself, as to where the truth lies. Might is truly a wonder and knows what he's talking about.

  • Jack Kronk

    8/15/2011 9:57:54 PM |

    What does that mean, that the comments from Guyenet's site are removed? Stephan removed them, or Might removed them? I've traded comments with Might over there dozens of times.

  • Jack Kronk

    8/15/2011 10:00:22 PM |

    I just use pure Stevia powder, which is gauranteed to be at least 95% pure stevia crystals (like the liquid stevia, on in teh form of powder. The brand I use is Stevita. A tiny little 0.7 ounce conainer lasts FOREVER! You only need a tiny pinhc of it for coffee. It doesn't exchange well versus sugar as a substitute, but adding a little to whatever you might be baking or making can help with using less of whatever other sweetener you may need to use.

  • Janmar Delicana

    8/16/2011 12:13:10 AM |

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  • Might-o'chondri-AL

    8/17/2011 12:33:07 AM |

    Stephan who hosts the WholeHealth blog is smarter than me &  the removal of my comments there came from someone using my computer. These days I do not have the time to follow Stephan's blog, which has nothing to do with validity of his approach.

  • Stefan

    8/31/2011 1:46:14 AM |

    I buy it at SuperSupplements or at Whole Foods. Any nutritional supplements &vitamins stores should carry it. If you live in a place whch doesn't havenay -> use Amazon. It's simple Smile.

  • Stefan

    8/31/2011 1:50:21 AM |

    Whoops - I thought you meant Stevia. Liquid Splenda is at amazon as well

  • Serge

    9/2/2011 11:27:16 PM |

    Dr. Davis--

    I'd like to recommend ZSweet.  It's a stevia/erythritol blend but isn't a Big Ag product like Cargill/Coca-Cola's Truvia or Pepsico/Monsanto-er-Merisant's PureVia.

    It's funny how Stevia was banned by the FDA in the 80s, only to be given the GRAS label in 2008, which just happened to be the same year that Truvia was launched.  Coincidence?

  • Dr. William Davis

    9/2/2011 11:40:52 PM |

    Hi, Serge-

    I have no doubt that the clout of Cargill pushed Truvia through. I wasn't aware of ZSweet--thanks!

  • Susan

    12/18/2011 6:10:37 AM |

    I am absolutely thrilled to have found this blog.  I've been extremely cautious of sugar and sweets since my mother was diagnosed with diabetes when I was a child.  Unfortunately I did fall into the "healthy whole grains" trap for a while, but have kept my daily carbs between 50-100 for many years now.  I like Stevia products, but unfortunately they leave me with a slight headache.  I've been (sparingly) using Volcanic Agave Nectar for years, mostly in tea and for the occasional baked good.  I understand that due to the rich soil in which it's grown, and minimal processing, volcanic blue agave has a lower glycemic index-load than other traditional agave nectars, at 27.  

    Am I doing myself harm by using it?  I'd like to try the liquid Splenda, that contains no maltodextrin.  Thank you Elenor and Stefan for mentioning it, but should I be concerned about its processing?

  • jpatti

    5/27/2012 6:58:29 PM |

    I'm not big on Truvia.  

    From what I've heard from other diabetics erthyritol doesn't have the GI side effects of most sugar alcohols and has a lesser effect on bg, but even so... I prefer a plain stevia powder.

    I don't think erthyritol has been around long enough to know what it's side effects may be, that it doesn't raise bg much and doesn't cause GI distress isn't good enough. There's any number of other bad side effects that exist in the world besides those two.

    Stevia is food.  Granted, the plain white stuff is relatively refined, but I still feel better about it than erthryitol.  

    Susan, agave nectar has almost no GI effect because it is fructose, not glucose.  It has MUCH more fructose than HFCS.  Search this blog for a long list of the bad stuff that fructose causes.  I'm a diabetic, and I'd seriously rather eat sugar than agave.