How Sweet is Sweet? An Overview of Sweeteners

The helpful folks at UCSF’s Center for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment (COAST), whose experts are featured in UCTV Prime’s “The Skinny on Obesity” series, offer an overview of sweeteners to help you figure out what fits in your diet.

How Sweet is Sweet?

It all comes down to the amount of fructose you consume, not necessarily the type of sweetener it’s found in.

For example: A can of soda has 39 grams of high fructose corn-syrup (equivalent of 10 sugar cubes) at 42-65% fructose. But look at the chart below and notice that Agave syrup has even more fructose than high fructose corn syrup! Does that make HFCS better for you?

Well, it’s complicated. But really it comes down to the amount of sweetener you are consuming.  Since you use remarkably less Agave to sweeten your beverages or baked goods as you would compared to sugar or HFCS, you have decreased the amount of fructose you are consuming, even though it’s inherently high in fructose.

It’s all about proportion and amounts. So next time you sweeten, ask yourself, what is the quantity of sweetener and what is the “fructose load” of your sweetening choice? If your load is high, you want to consume items with low % fructose. If your load is low, having a sweetener that is higher in fructose may not make that much of a difference. (Interestingly, Brown Rice Syrup contains 0% fructose.)



21 thoughts on “How Sweet is Sweet? An Overview of Sweeteners

  1. Interesting article :) I have a question though – if you consume the low calorie sweeteners(Nutrasweet, stevia, splenda, xylitol, sorbitol and erythritol), would they still raise your insulin levels, making the body absorb fat just as if consuming regular table sugar?

  2. Hi, it looks like the entry for molasses should be corrected to account for the sucrose content. Since sucrose is 50% fructose, the effective percentage of fructose in molasses is actually 51%. 24% + (54%/2)
    Please correct me if I missed something.

  3. I’d also love to know how the artificial sweeteners are broken down…do they hit the liver like fructose? Or do they just pass through?

  4. I would love to see a list on how much fructose there is in other carbohydrate foods than specifically sweeteners. For instance rice and wheat flour of different kinds, potatoes etc.

  5. I’ve found that since I’ve given up sweeteners I no longer like sweet tasting food and drink. My taste has changed. I consider this a blessing. I’ve lost 158 pounds in the past 2 and a half years. Cut the sweeteners out and see how it affects you.

  6. I’m a believer in low carbs. I tried for 2 years to lose weihgt by counting calories and trying to eat low fat. I kept gaining weihgt. A month ago I saw my doctor who put me on metformin for insulin resistance. He said to try low carb. I was not able to lose a single pound before but a month after cutting carbs I’m down 12 pounds and feel great. I’m eating the same amount of calories as I did before 1200-1500 but I’m eating more fat and a lot less carbs. Cutting calories alone did not work.

  7. yes they do and are treated the same and just stored and eventually flushed out of your system your body cannot do anything with them… so they are actually worse. Sorry for typos really tired.

  8. Is fructose fron fruit and veggies as bad as those in sweetners ? Being diabetic I don`t sweeten much but I love fruit, just wondering if I`m still harming myself.

  9. Has there been a study done with artificial sweeteners raising insulin levels. If so do you know where I can find the study.

  10. Sugar fuels cancer. I lost whiget by avoiding sugar, but when I have a couple of shots of liquor just two days in a row, I gain whiget, while maintaing my none sugar evened proportiond diet. I eat mushrooms for breakfast, tomatos and avocado for lunch, and my large meal at night is a vegatable, fish or steak, and red bud potatos. I lost whiget by that. I avoid olive oil. No natural food in nature has an oil viscosity! If you were to crush fresh olives it would be watery, not oil.

  11. If you have the willpower you shloud be able to eat all junk and do the required exercise to stay fit. That is essentially what you are saying by saying its calories in/calories out. Now you are saying you have to eat the right things. Bingo, you have to eat the right things to promote a healthy body. If you eat the wrong things you will get lazy and fat. Go ahead and try the experiment, after all its just calories in/calories out right?

  12. I couldn’t agree with you more!When I read your anlgoay of the avocado, I have to say that it made me smile. Many people I know are on well known diets that use points or coloured days and frown at me as I tuck into a whole avocado and they have great pleasure in telling me how much fat is in it as they eat their chemical meals or low fat this and diet that but guess who is not on a diet and doesn’t need to loose weight?Avocados haven’t done my waist line any harm .

  13. You are confused, I will try again. This video is on about loisng weight. Not about if I can keep lean mass on a junk food diet. Calories in vs Calories out controls your weight, that is in reference to the video. Now, if you want a different convo about fitness, we can have that, but there is no need. Why are you trying to add fitness into a discussion about weight? There is no need. Do you understand that this is about weight only? You keep adding things into it that are not needed here.

  14. Ok, your way then, no fitness. Lets stick to C in vs C out. So a peosrn has the willpower to match their C in to their C out they will not gain weight regardless of what they eat. The problem here is that this doesn’t tell us why people stop matching their C in to their C out and begin overeating. You argument is the how’ not the why’. Say C in/C out is the equivalent of saying there is rain because water falls from the sky. You didn’t aswer the why and willpower is not the why either.

  15. Thanks Rebecca. I have exactly the same exenciepre. We really need to shift our focus away from the numbers and to what we are eating. Not all calories are created equal. Our bodies easily metabolize those that come from natural and whole foods. I wish there was some research comparing the two. Guess that would be against research ethics though as the processed group would end up very sick. I won’t even start are all the packaged diet food out there .

  16. ok. now i know the problem .. but what about a sltiouon? by the tone of this video, there is NOTHING we can do Please, when you present a problem you have to present a sltiouon or at least give a hint that there is one, this makes me depressed and not wanting to see more.UUUUFFFFFFFF!!!!!!!!i may not be fat (130 lbs) but i KNOW i eat so much sugar, and i get lazy depressed and irritable when i try to cut back . I KNOW THE PROBLEM, I NEED A SOLUTION!!!!

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