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Why low-calorie sweeteners have an E-number?

February 5, 2018 3:07 pm

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Calorie free sweeteners indicated with an E-number appear in our products more and more. But what do they really mean?

Low calorie sweeteners can be found in plenty of products. You will find them in light beverages, but also in sugar free gingerbread. Although these products are increasingly finding their way into the consumer’s shopping cart, the zero calorie sweeteners contained in them are not undisputed. Those who snoop around on the internet will encounter the wildest stories. They would make you thick, be unhealthy and/or increase blood sugar levels. What also does not help is that most low-calorie sweeteners are indicated with E-numbers. And those E-numbers: well, they have undoubtedly suffered unjustified damage in their image over the years. At some point people started seeing them as chemical additives. That idea started to lead a life of its own.

Scientific research

According to research, this image of the E-numbers is completely unjustified. Because E-numbers are without doubt the most researched and safest components in our food. They were created by the European Union in 1979 and were placed in the category “food additives”: substances that are added to the food, for example to improve the taste or the shelf life. A substance or food ingredient does not just get an E-number, this process takes years of research carried out by scientists from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Only after a comprehensive series of safety tests show that a substance is harmless, it will get a certified E-number. And if new investigations appear that question the safety of a substance, the European Food Safety Authority will do research again.

Get a banana next time someone starts talking about the danger of e-numbers. It is literally full of e-numbers! It contains potassium sulphate (E515), ascorbic acid (E300) and pectin (E440), but also the dyes riboflavin (E101) and beta carotene (E160a) and flavourings such as ethanol (E1510).

Low calorie sweeteners with an E-number are safe

It is not necessary to consider a calorie free sweetener that is designated with an E-number as suspicious. Because in fact, that E-number only indicates that the sweetener – scientifically proven – is safe. It does not matter whether a zero-calorie sweetener has a natural origin or not. “All sweeteners are subjected to the same European evaluation procedures for safety before they come onto the market,” according to toxicologist Jan Tytgat, associated with the Leuven University. (Kenniscentrum zoetstoffen, 2016)

The fact that E-numbers and therefore the low-calorie sweeteners are still being watched with suspicion is unjustified. And thus, a missed opportunity in a time when many people are overweight or obese. Sweeteners contain little or no calories and if they already contain calories, then that amount is often negligible. This is because there is relatively little sweetener required to make a sweetened product (sweeteners are many hundreds of times sweeter than sugar). It means concrete that exchanging sugar in products by high intensity sweeteners will significantly limit caloric intake: for example, a can of light cola contains 135 kilocalories less than the same amount of ‘ordinary’ cola.

Are calorie free sweeteners then the panacea that allows you to effortlessly maintain weight or easily shake off some excess pounds and associated health risks? Certainly not. But they can help with that – in combination with a healthy and varied diet and sufficient exercise.

The information in this text originates from https://www.scientias.nl/waarom-zoetstoffen-e-nummer/