Course:FNH200/Lessons/Lesson 03/Page 03.1

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3.1 Fat and Sugar Substitutes

Terms to remember

  • Simplesse
  • microparticulation
  • Maltrin
  • Olean/Olestra
  • sucrose polyester
  • sweetener
  • sweetening agent
  • Aspartame
  • PKU and DKP
  • Sorbitol
  • Acesulfame-k
  • Sucralose

Why use fat and sugar substitutes?

As you will recall from Lesson 1, one major consumer demand is for foods that contain less fat and sugar, and are overall healthier.

  • Excessive caloric consumption along with a sedentary lifestyle are risk factors for obesity and other health problems.
  • The food industry has responded to consumer demands by offering an ever-increasing variety of food products or ingredients that are low-fat or low-calorie, without sacrificing the taste and texture that consumers demand.
  • Most of this research is taking place in developed countries where problems related to overeating and excess body weight are of major concern.
  • Some sweeteners have been developed to allow consumers to enjoy sweet products without an excessive caloric intake
  • Some sweeteners are non- or even anti-cariogenic (do not promote tooth decay)
  • Some sweeteners are acceptable for diabetics based on their glycemic response rating
Want to learn more?
  • Take a look at the labels of packages of "low-fat", "fat-free" or "sugar-free" products on the market, and try to identify the fat and sugar substitutes that are used in these products.

3.1.1 Types of Fat Substitutes

Fat substitutes are grouped as either protein, carbohydrate or fat based. The following table has an example of each of the 3 main groups:

Type of Fat substitute
Protein based: use protein particles to stabilize and give texture to food. Usually digested as protein
Simplesse ® Based on soy, milk or egg white protein.

The protein is partially coagulated by heat, creating a micro dispersion, in a process known as microparticulation. The spheroidal particles in this dispersion are very small (0.01-3 microns)!

Due to the small particle size of the protein, we perceive the dispersion as a fluid with similar creaminess and richness of fat.

Simplesse is digested as a protein, but due to the micro dispersion formed, produces only 1.0-1.3 Cal/g

Applications include: Ice cream, yogurt, cheese spread, salad dressings, margarine, mayonnaise, coffee creamer, soups and sauces.

Carbohydrate based: They imitate fat's mouthfeel while contributing to less calories. Include cellulose, gums, modified starches, etc.

Also known as Maltrin ®

Derived from carbohydrate sources such as corn, potato, wheat and tapioca. It produces a smooth mouthfeel and bland flavour

Maltrin is fully digestible, yielding 4 Cal/g (remember that fat yields 9 Cal/g).

Other carbohydrate based fat replacers are available that range from non-digestible to partially digestible (0-2 Cal/g)

Applications include: Margarine, salad dressings, frozen desserts, frostings, processed meat.

Fat based: Some are made form long and/or short fatty acid chains. Others have fatty acids linked to sucrose (instead of glycerol- as in normal fat)

Also known as Olean ®

Made from a sucrose molecule and 6-8 long-chain edible fatty acids forming a sucrose polyester.

Unlike other fat substitutes, Olestra can withstand high temperatures (e.g. frying), and gives the rich taste and creamy texture of characteristic of fat because it is made primarily from fat.

Enzymes that breakdown ordinary fat can not break down Olestra, therefore it passes through the body ‘unchanged’ (Olestra is not metabolized and not absorbed by the human body), contributing to 0 Cal/g.

Products containing Olestra must mention that vitamins A, D, E and K have been added (see below)

Olestra was approved in the U.S.A. in 1996. Currently it is not approved for use in Canada.

Applications include: Salty, savory snacks and crackers

"Simplesse" and "Maltrin" are trademarked or registered brand names, therefore you may not necessarily see these names on the label of a food product. Look instead for the proteins and carbohydrates listed as ingredients.

Want to learn more?
  • What is an acceptable common name for "Simplesse" when it is used as an ingredient in a food?
  • The common name of Simplesse for use in the list of ingredients of a food depends on the form of Simplesse used in the final product. If the Simplesse is made from egg white and milk protein, then the common name must appear in the list of ingredients as "egg and milk protein". The trade name "Simplesse" may appear in brackets following "egg and milk protein".
  • If Simplesse is actually "whey protein concentrate", it may be described as either "whey protein concentrate" or "modified milk ingredient" (section B.01.010 (3) (b) item 7.1, of the Food and Drug Regulations) in the list of ingredients. In either case, the trade name "Simplesse" may appear in brackets following it. (09/MA/90; 20/MR/92; 06/NO/92; MA 25/94.)"
  • Products containing Olestra must mention that vitamins A, D, E and K have been added. Why do you think this is necessary? Are these "added" vitamins nutritionally significant in the final product?
  • What complication has been associated with Olestra, that is in fact compared to a "high-fiber" diet?

3.1.2 Types of Sugar Substitutes - Sweeteners

In Canada, Section B.01.001, of the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR), defines sweetener as "any food additive listed as a sweetener in Table IX to B.16.100." Examples of sweeteners are: aspartame, sucralose, sorbitol, and maltitol.

In contrast, the FDR defines Sweetening agent as "any food for which a standard is provided in Division 18 of the FDR, but does not include those food additives listed in the table to Division 16 [B.01.001]". Examples of sweetening agents are: sugar, honey and molasses.

Definitions of "sweeteners" versus "sweetening agents" are given at:


( scroll down to Division 16 and look at Table IX )

As we mentioned at the beginning of this lesson, sweeteners may be preferred or necessary for: Individuals with diabetes, those concerned with high caloric intake, and consumers trying to reduce the risk of tooth decay (cavities).

Sweeteners may be naturally occurring or synthetic molecules. Many of them were discovered serendipitously! For example, naturally occurring sweet peptides and proteins, derivatives of sugars (mono, disaccharides) and derivatives of amino acids or small peptides.

Low-calorie sweeteners


Aspartame is a methyl ester of a dipeptide composed of 2 amino acids (phenylalanine and aspartic acid). It is metabolized as proteins (amino acids), contributing to 4 Cal/g.

Aspartame is 180-220 times sweeter than sucrose, which allows for very small amounts to be used (thus, a low-calorie sweetener). It also does not increase blood glucose or insulin levels. However, people suffering from the rare metabolic disorder known as "PKU" (phenylketonuria) must avoid aspartame.

Aspartame undergoes degradation reactions at high temperatures (can not be used on baked goods), and eventually degrades overtime into DKP (diketopiperazine). A best before date is necessary on products with aspartame.

Applications include: Acidified beverages, desserts, frozen products, breakfast cereals.

Sugar-alcohols: maltitol, sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, xylitol

Found naturally in a wide variety of fruits and berries, and also commercially produced by hydrogenating sugars.

Mainly used as a "Bulk sweeteners" (can be used cup-for-cup [volume-for-volume] in the same amount as sugar). They are also responsible for the cool-refreshing (menthol-like) sensation perceived from products like chewing gum and toothpaste,

Unlike the other sweeteners, sugar alcohols are less sweet than sugar (e.g. sorbitol is 60% as sweet as sucrose).

Do not promote tooth decay as they are not fermentable by the bacteria in our mouth.

Sugar alcohols also do not increase blood glucose or insulin levels. They are absorbed slowly in the large intestine, thus contributing 1.5-3.0 Cal/g. This 'slow absorption' can lead to a laxative effect when excess consumption occurs.

Applications include: Chewing gums, candies, frozen desserts, cookies, cakes, icings and fillings as well as oral care products(including toothpaste and mouthwash).

Non-caloric sweeteners

Acesulfame-k can provide a synergistic sweetening effect when combined with other sweeteners (e.g. used with Aspartame in soft drinks).

It is heat stable. It has a high degree of stability over a wide range of pH and temperature storage conditions.

Acesulfame-K is 200 times sweeter than sucrose and not metabolized by the body (contributes to 0 Cal/g). It is not fermented by oral bacteria, so it does not contribute to the development of cavities

Applications include: Baked goods, candies, canned goods, chewing gum dry foods. Also used in oral hygiene and pharmaceutical products

Sucralose is a chlorinated molecule in which 3 hydroxyl groups(OH) of the sucrose molecule are replaced by chlorine. It tastes similar to sugar but it is 600 times sweeter than sucrose. Sucralose is not metabolized by the human body, passing through unchanged (contributes to 0 Cal/g).

Sucralose is heat stable. It retains its sweetness over a wide range of temperature and storage conditions and in solutions over time. It has no effect in carbohydrate metabolism and does not increase blood glucose or insulin levels. It also does not support the growth of oral bacteria (does not promote tooth decay).

Applications include: Canned fruit, fruit drinks, baked goods, chewing gum, tabletop sweeteners, maple syrup, apple sauce.

Steviol glycoside is derived from the leaves of the South American Stevia plant where it has been used by indigenous people for centuries. The steviol glycosides are 100-150 times sweeter than sucrose and provide 0 Cal (due to the intense sweetness), and do not increase blood glucose or insulin levels and does not promote tooth decay. Stevia also remains stable under acidic conditions and high temperature does not destroy its sweetening properties.

Want to find out more?
  • Visit the FQA on Stevia page from Health Canada to find out more:
  • Please note that fresh or dried whole stevia plants are not considered food additives
  • Applications include: flavour enhancer (for other sweeteners), baked goods, chewing gum, tabletop sweeteners, etc.

The table below lists the acceptable daily intake (ADI) for several sweeteners. Further details in how the ADI is determined will be covered in Lesson 4: Food Additiives.

Approved Sweeteners in Canada Acceptable Daily Intake2 (mg/kg body weight)
Acesulfame-K 15
Advantame 5
Aspartame 40
Erythritol 1000
Neotame 2.0
Sucralose 8.8-9.0
Stevia extracts (steviol glycoside) 2.0-5.0
Sugar alcohols unspecified, GMP1
Saccharin 5.0

1 Good Manufacturing Practice: minimum amount of an additive required to accomplish the specific purpose for which the additive is listed.

2 Daily dosage of a chemical which during an entire lifetime appears to be without appreciable risk on the basis of all facts known at that time. The acceptable daily intake is expressed as mg intake per kg body weight.