Do artificial sweeteners have calories? The answer isn't as obvious as it seems.
Saccharin and SucraloseÂ are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. Aspartame, also sometimes known as NutraSweet, is about one hundred and sixty times sweeter. That means that one teaspoon of aspartame is the same as one hundred and sixty teaspoons of sugar in terms of sweetening.
That Extra Sweet Taste
The sweet taste of a substance has to do with how well the molecules that make up the substance chemically bind with the sweet taste receptors in our mouth. The amount of energy released when we metabolize this substance, is measured in calories. The reason saccharin and sucralose have no calories is because our bodies don't metabolize them.
However, when we metabolize aspartame, it breaks down into chemicals that do have a caloric value. That's where the degree of sweetness comes in.
Because aspartame is one hundred and sixty times as sweet as sugar, you only need to use a very small amount of aspartame compared to the amount of sugar you would need to use to sweeten a beverage.
The amount is so small, it's insignificant in terms of calories. This is how soft drinks can be low calorie, but still stay sweet.
And if you're worried about added sugars, remember that they're not just present in soft drinks. One study showed that only 30% of the added sugars people in the US consume comes from drinks like sodas and juices.
Sources And Further Reading:
- Artificial Sweeteners And Other Sugar Substitutes (Mayo Clinic)
- Diet Soda Health Risks (Huffington Post)