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Differences Between Sugar & Artificial Sweetener

Updated April 17, 2017

Sugar is an edible crystalline substance extracted from sugarcane or sugar beet and is an easily metabolised carbohydrate. Artificial sweeteners, also known sugar substitutes, are additives used as alternatives to sugar and are not naturally found in food. Artificial sweeteners are added to food for sweetness and are generally found in processed foods.

Origin and Types of Sugar

Sugar is generally extracted from plants -- sugar beet and sugarcane -- or found in a variety of different foods. Honey, for example, contains a high amount of sugar which is why it is sweet. Sugar is a main ingredient in many foods and recipes, available as sucrose or saccharose (household sugar), lactose (milk sugar), maltose (malt sugar), fructose (fruit sugar) and glucose (dextrose).

Origin and Types of Artificial Sweetener

Artificial sweeteners are chemical compositions and are not naturally in foods or naturally produced or extracted. There are a variety of artificial sweeteners available, such as aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame or neotame, which are sold under brand names but can be identified by the chemical name on food packages. All artificial sweeteners must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Benefits of Sugar

Natural sugar is a direct form of glucose, which is required for the body to function. Insulin breaks down glucose, or "blood sugar," and coverts it into energy for the body to use; sugar, in its natural or refined form, is an easily digestible carbohydrate and a quick source of energy for the body.

Benefits of Artificial Sweetener

Artificial sweetener can be chemically composed to be low in calories. Natural, refined or processed sugar is generally full of calories and large amounts of sugar are required to sweeten food; artificial sweetener, however, is much sweeter than sugar -- up to 400 times sweeter -- and lower in calories. Less artificial sweetener is needed to make food sweet.

Disadvantages of Sugar

There are many health concerns over sugar. Large amounts of sugar are required to make food sweet and, because sugar contains a lot of calories, the body absorbs more calories and fat into its system. Similarly, regularly eating food containing natural, refined or processed sugar increases the blood sugar intake and can result in type 2 diabetes, where the insulin in the body is inadequate to break up the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.

Disadvantages of Artificial Sweetener

Artificial sweetener is a chemical compound and there has been concern about the body's ability to digest chemical compounds compared to natural sugar. Artificial sweeteners, despite being lower in calories, also provide less energy for the body to use. There are also concerns of side effects from consuming artificial sweeteners; aspartame, for example, contains 50 per cent phenylalanine, 40 per cent aspartic acid and 10 per methanol, which are considered dangerous neurotoxins.

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About the Author

Victoria Gorski has been a freelance copywriter since 2005, producing articles for small businesses, newspapers and magazines, as well as creating marketing material. She also publishes material for literacy communities and regional newspapers, such as the "MEN" and "Bolton News." Gorski is pursuing a Master of Arts in creative writing and a postgraduate certificate in education.