B2 High-Intermediate UK 2405 Folder Collection
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Meet Constantine Fahlberg. He’s a Russian chemist who, back in 1879, was working with
some compounds derived from coal tar. One evening he was eating bread and found it tasted
sweet. His napkin was sweet too, and his water tasted like syrup.
Fahlberg had discovered the first artificial sweetener - Saccharin. It’s one of the many
things you can use to make your food or drinks sweeter. We know that too much sweet stuff
is bad for us, but are some sweeteners better than others?
There’s so much information out there that it’s hard to sort out fact from fiction.
Let’s unpack what’s really best for you.
First up is natural sweeteners. They come from things found in nature, like sugar from
sugar cane, honey from bees, and maple syrup from maple trees.
Plain old table sugar is the refined form of sucrose – it’s the combination of equal
portions of two simple sugars, glucose and fructose. It has a lot of calories and not
much nutritional value. It has a high glycemic index- so the energy we get from eating it
peaks quickly then dies off. You know, a “sugar high”.
Honey is also made up of glucose and fructose, but not in equal proportions. Honey is about
30 percent glucose, 40 percent fructose, the rest mostly water. A teaspoon of honey has
more calories than a teaspoon of sugar, but it's also sweeter. You probably don’t need
as much of it. Honey also has other benefits – like antioxidants that are good for your
heart health.
And our body can’t distinguish between natural sugars like honey and processed ones like
table sugar – we absorb them in the same way.
The inbetweeners are derived from something natural, but refined and processed in a way
that changes the chemical composition of the original product.
The most popular is high fructose corn syrup. It’s made by adding enzymes to regular corn
syrup, that convert glucose into fructose - making it sweeter.
In the United States high fructose corn syrup has been widely criticised for contributing
to the obesity epidemic, but there isn’t any research that says it’s a direct cause.
The problem it’s in so many processed foods – things like soda and candy and things
you might not expect - like bread, cereal and crackers. Outside of the U.S., it’s
not so cheap or widely used.
High fructose corn syrup is similar to table sugar in calorie content and the way it’s
absorbed into the body. The difference is sugar is made up of 50/50 glucose and fructose
while HFCS is more like 55/45.
This matters because fructose converts to fat more easily than glucose does. Its also
not as good at telling our body that we are full. It can cause insulin resistance and
increase risks of heart disease, and its been linked to fatty-liver disease.
And if you think Agave syrup is healthier for you – it has an even a higher concentration
of fructose - up to 90%! It’s not actually a “nectar”, but a juice extracted from
the core of the agave plant that’s heated and filtered to turn into sugars. It’s bad
news bears.
There are a few different types of artificial sweeteners available – including Saccharin,
that one Falhberg discovered back in 1879.
Sweeteners are hundreds, or even thousands of times sweeter than sugar. The idea is you
only need a tiny bit to get the same taste as a teaspoon of sugar - so there’s not
many calories
Some of these products are totally artificial, while others like Splenda are made by tweaking
the chemical structure of sucrose to make it sweeter. One product commonly confused
with artificial sweeteners is stevia. It’s from the leaf of a South American plant and
in its pure form, has zero calories.
The body responds to these sweeteners differently than it does to sugar. There have been studies
into negative health effects, but not a lot of firm conclusions. Research does show these
products can actually lead to weight gain - people consume more because they think it’s
healthier.
So what’s actually best? Sugar and honey are marginally better for our health than
high fructose corn syrup, and agave is the worst offender. Experts say that people over
consume artificial sweeteners, so be careful to just add a little bit.
In the end, reducing the consumption of all sweet things is generally better for your
health. Everything in moderation, right?
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Are Some Sweeteners Better Than Others?

2405 Folder Collection
Adam Huang published on December 14, 2015
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