The sour side of “natural” sweeteners


With table sugar being labelled as toxic by media, natural sugar substitutes like agave and rice malt syrup are being hailed as health saviours for patients. But what do we understand as being “natural” and how “healthy” are these?

The term “natural” is ill-defined and in the case of sweeteners, appears to apply to anything derived from a plant rather than a laboratory. However, many natural substances are harmful if taken to excess, and often the processes required to extract the natural sweet substance and produce a commercially viable product are unnatural.1

Here is a guide to understanding the difference between the sugars and their health effects.

Natural sweeteners can be divided into nutritive sweeteners (those that contain calories) and non-nutritive sweeteners (those that don't).