Low-kilojoule sweeteners provide a safe and sweet alternative to sugar.
There are two types of sweeteners commonly used in food and beverages: sugars and low-kilojoule sweeteners.
Sugars are known as nutritive sweeteners because they are energy-containing carbohydrates. Sugars include sucrose, fructose and honey.
Low-kilojoule sweeteners, by contrast, provide a low-energy alternative to sugars and are often used in “diet” and “no-sugar” beverages.
Because they contain low-kilojoules, they can help with weight management for those people who enjoy the taste of sugar-sweetened beverages but want a low-calorie alternative.
Low-kilojoule sweeteners are sometimes known as sugar substitutes, non-nutritive sweeteners, or intense sweeteners and there are a number of these types of sweeteners used in the beverage industry in New Zealand.
Aspartame is a low-kilojoule sweetener composed of two amino-acids - aspartic acid and phenylalanine.
Both of these amino acids are found commonly in protein-containing foods, such as eggs, meat, fish, dairy products and nuts.
Aspartame was discovered in 1965 and is 180-200 times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose). Only a small amount is needed to sweeten foods, meaning its energy contribution to the diet is negligible.
Aspartame is available as a table top sweetener under the brand names Equal and Nutrasweet.
More than 200 scientific studies and food regulatory bodies across the world, including Food Standards Australian and New Zealand, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Drug Administration, and the European Food Safety Authority, have confirmed the safety of aspartame as a non-nutritive sweetener.
It is important, however, to note that aspartame should not be consumed by those people with the rare genetic disorder phenylketonuria because aspartame contains phenylalanine.
Stevia is a plant in the chrysanthemum family and is native to Paraguay. Its leaf is a unique source of intense sweetness.
Dried stevia leaves are soaked in water to unlock its sweetness, which is then purified in a similar manner to that used in extracting vanilla and spearmint.
Stevia is 200 times sweeter than table sugar and provides zero kilojoules. It is commonly used in New Zealand as either stevia or stevia extract. It may also be known as steviol glycosides, rebiana or rebaudioside.
Acesulphame Potassium (Acesulphame K) was discovered in 1967 and is a low-kilojoule sweetener approximately 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
Products with Acesulphame K can be found in 90 countries and it is used in thousands of food and beverage products, including table top sweeteners, desserts, puddings, baked goods, soft drinks, confectionery and canned foods.
Sucralose is derived from sugar and is 600 times sweeter than table sugar, but does not contribute kilojoules to the diet.
Sucralose is used as an ingredient in a broad range of foods and beverages and as a table top sweetener and is sold under the brand name Splenda.