Fructose Vs. Xylitol Vs. Stevia:
The Natural Sweetener Comparison
Fructose is a natural sweetener found in honey, fruits, berries and vegetables, thus it is thought to be a healthy option for a sweetener. The real problem is the fact that the food industry has increased the usage of fructose and high fructose corn syrup as sweeteners. The last thing we need to do is add more fructose to our nutritional products. The consumption of fructose within the US has increased by 26% since 1970, and the incidence of obesity and type II diabetes has increased drastically within this same time period. Obesity rates stayed stable through the 60’s and 70’s then increased 8% in the 80’s. All the research on large intakes of fructose is extremely negative.
Fructose has been thought to have the lowest glycemic index when compared to other sugars. Glycemic index refers to the how quickly/how high blood sugar raises after eating a certain food. For example, pure sugar has a high glycemic index. When compared to other sugars, such as sucrose, fructose does have a lower glycemic index, but when looking at the whole body, the following occur: quick conversion into lipids, cholesterol levels increase, triglyceride levels increase, insulin resistance is well on its way, and blood pressure can rise. Fructose has also been used in animal studies to study the effectiveness of high blood pressure medications. Fructose intolerance has also been noted in 25-50% of patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Xylitol is naturally found in mushrooms, fruits, and vegetables. It is commercially extracted from birch trees and cornhusks. Xylitol does enter the blood stream but has a low glycemic index, meaning it slightly raises blood sugar levels when ingested. Studies have shown that humans can utilize several hundred grams of xylitol a day without any toxic results. The body normally metabolizes up to 15 grams a day. Research has related the following health benefits with xylitol: prevention of cavities and ear infections, can decrease appetite and promote weight loss, and aid in bone mineralization. Ingestion of xylitol has not been shown to increase triglyceride or cholesterol levels.
Stevia is a non-caloric herb that grows wild as a small shrub. Stevia is the only all-natural, zero-calorie, zero-glycemic-index alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners at this time. Stevia will not raise blood sugar or cause any increase in triglycerides or cholesterol. Unlike artificial sweeteners, it does not contain harmful chemicals. Stevia may help in losing or managing weight as it contains no calories, and the body does not metabolize it. It reduces cravings for sweets and fatty foods. Stevia may be ideal for diabetics, as it does not cause the same rapid increase in blood glucose levels that sugar and ordinary carbohydrates do. Its mild anti-bacterial activity may make it effective against gum disease, sore throats and inhibits plaque and cavities. Why isn’t stevia more widespread and used within the US? The power of the artificial sweetener companies and the large beverage companies have been able to keep stevia at bay via labeling it as a supplement and not as a sweetener, but things are changing and we are currently seeing it more and more within the US.