There is no doubt that people love to eat. Enjoying a good meal in good company is one of life’s great pleasures. However, not taking care of our diet can contribute to development of diseases such as obesity and diabetes. That is why beneficial foods have emerged that replace those that harm us, such as monk fruit sweeteners.
Replacing foods and beverages that are high in calories and added sugars with ones with less sugar is an excellent option to reduce excess calorie intake. In turn, this can help reduce the risk of obesity and related chronic diseases.
This group of low-calorie sweeteners are used in foods and beverages as a way to reduce the intake of added sugars and, at the same time, provide the satisfaction of enjoying something sweet.
What are Monk Fruit Sweeteners?
The monk fruit, also known as Io han guo o Siraitia grosvenorii, is a small round fruit native to southern China. It has been used for centuries in oriental medicine to treat colds and promote digestion. And now it is also used to sweeten foods and beverages.
Monk fruit sweeteners are made by removing the seeds and skin from the fruit, crushing the fruit, and collecting the juice. The fruit extract, or juice, contains zero calories per serving. The FDA allows the use of monk fruit sweeteners in food and beverages.
What gives the monk fruit its sweet taste?
The compounds that give sweetness to the ripe monk fruit are called mogrosides. These consist of a main structure called mogrol with attached glucose or glycoside units.
Mogrosides are not absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract and do not contribute calories to our diet. When they reach the colon, gut microbes break down glucose molecules and use them for energy. Mogrol and some metabolites are mainly excreted from the gastrointestinal tract, while minor amounts are absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted in the urine.
200 times sweeter than traditional sugar
Monk fruit sweeteners are 150-200 times sweeter than sugar and add sweetness to foods and beverages without adding calories. Monk fruit sweeteners are used in beverages and foods such as soft drinks, juices, dairy products, desserts, sweets, and condiments.
Like all low-calorie or no-calorie sweeteners, only very small amounts of monk fruit sweetener are needed to achieve the same sweetness of sugar. For easy measuring and pouring, they are typically mixed with approved common food ingredients. This is why a packet of sweeteners made from monk fruit looks the same in quantity as a packet of table sugar, for example.
Is it safe to consume monk fruit sweeteners?
Yes. Monk fruit sweeteners have been allowed by being generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA since 2010. GRAS is a category that requires expert consensus to approve that a food ingredient is safe for consumption.
The governments of Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and Canada have also concluded that monk fruit sweeteners are safe for the general population. Including children, people with diabetes, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
An Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for monk fruit sweeteners has not yet been established as no adverse effects have been shown. Even after having administered large amounts of monk fruit sweeteners in animal studies. The ADI generally represents an amount 100 times less than the amount of a substance that is considered safe in research studies.
Is it safe for children to consume this sweetener?
It is safe. Foods containing monk fruit sweeteners can add sweetness to a child’s diet. Without contributing to the increased intake of calories, sugar or the risk of cavities. While no research has yet been published on the intake of these sweeteners in children, no negative health effects have been found in animals or adults.
As with adults, the typical intake of low calorie sweeteners in children is considered to be within acceptable levels. However, due to limited studies in children, the American Academy of Pediatrics has no official recommendations on the intake of low-calorie sweeteners.
Can pregnant and lactating women consume monk fruit sweeteners?
If you can. While there is no published research that has examined the possible effects of monk fruit sweeteners on pregnant and lactating women, various animal studies have found no adverse effects on reproduction or development in the mother or her young.
All women should try to consume the nutrients and calories necessary for the growth of their baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Taking care not to exceed your needs. This may require taking into account all sources of sweeteners, be they sugar or low calorie sweeteners.
Is it safe for those with diabetes?
Yes. Products containing sweeteners made from monk fruit provide a sweet taste. And they are often low in carbohydrates, which is important for people who must monitor their carbohydrate intake. These types of sweeteners do not increase blood sugar levels.
The American Diabetes Association Medical Standards for Diabetes Care state that:
“The use of non-nutritive sweeteners can reduce total calorie and carbohydrate intake if substituted for caloric sweeteners (sugar) and without compensation for additional calorie intake from other food sources. Non-nutritive sweeteners are generally safe to use within defined acceptable daily intake levels«.
However, people with diabetes should speak with a registered dietitian, a healthcare professional or a certified diabetes expert for tips on healthy eating to improve blood sugar control.
What is the IDA?
The Acceptable Daily Intake, or ADI, is the average daily intake that, according to a significant number of studies, may be safe to consume over a lifetime. It is usually obtained by determining the highest intake level that does not have adverse effects on animals.
These studies are required by the FDA and other regulatory agencies around the world before allowing any new food ingredients. Then that amount is divided by a factor of safety (usually 100) to determine the ADI. The ADI is a conservative number that the vast majority of people really do not reach.
What is GRAS?
Food ingredients allowed for use in the US fall into one of two categories: food additives (which require review before FDA approval) or ingredients generally recognized as safe (GRAS).
Whether it is a GRAS or a food additive, food ingredients must be safe and meet the same food safety standards. To be considered GRAS, an ingredient must meet one of the following two conditions:
1. A history of safe use has been established and a significant number of people consumed the ingredient prior to the enactment of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1958.
2. Scientific data and information on the safety and use of the ingredient are widely known and publicly available in scientific articles with consensus among scientific experts that the ingredient is safe for its intended use.
Do monk fruit sweeteners help you maintain or lose weight?
Currently, there is no research that has examined how monk fruit sweeteners affect weight. However, there is substantial evidence that substituting foods and beverages sweetened with low calorie sweeteners may play a role in weight loss or weight management.
In a poll of members of the National Weight Control Registry, more than 50 percent of all respondents stated that they regularly consume low-calorie beverages, 78 percent of them said they felt that doing this helped control their caloric intake.
According to studies this is possible
Data from randomized clinical trials, considered the standard for evaluating causal effects, support that substituting caloric foods with low-calorie sweetener options leads to moderate weight loss.
However, it is important to note that losing and maintaining weight often requires multiple simultaneous approaches. Making a single change, such as substituting high-calorie, sugar-containing processed foods and beverages for products with low-calorie sweeteners, is just one approach of many others.
Lifestyle and behavioral changes such as reducing your total calorie intake, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and maintaining social support networks are important factors in losing and maintaining weight.