The role of sugars and sweeteners in food, diet and health: Alternatives for the future

Cathrina Edwards, Megan Rossi, Christopher Corpe, Peter J. Butterworth, Peter Ellis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)



There is currently great interest in reducing the sugar content of foods to control dietary intake and curb obesity rates. Despite a lack of consensus from the scientific literature about the adverse effects of sugars on health, many health professionals and new dietary guidelines place pressure on industry to seek alternative sweetening solutions.

Scope and approach

We discuss the nutritional characteristics and health implications of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners. The role of traditional sweeteners, which are often overlooked in the debate about sugars and health, is emphasised.

Key findings and conclusions

Trends in future sweetener use will likely be influenced by increasing obesity prevalence and consumer demand; however, it is not yet clear which sweetener provides the best solution for this purpose. Given the main concern about sugars is their disproportionate contribution to dietary energy intake, non-nutritive sweeteners (e.g., aspartame, stevia), which provide intense sweetness but minimal caloric value, are increasing in popularity. However, their assumed role in facilitating body weight management is far from established, and many questions remain about their long term effects on energy metabolism and safety. Traditional sweeteners (e.g., maple syrup, honey, carob, and agave) have been safely consumed for generations, and although they contribute to energy intake, these sweeteners tend to have lower glycaemic potency than refined sugars. Moreover, traditional sweeteners contain a plethora of nutrients and bioactive compounds (e.g., polyphenolics) that may be of potential benefit to health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-166
Number of pages9
JournalTrends In Food Science & Technology
Early online date15 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Health
  • Obesity
  • Phytochemicals
  • Sugar
  • Sweetener


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