Sweetening power, sweetening power

How do you evaluate the sweetness of a sugar?

Sweeteners are natural or synthetic substances, capable of giving a sweet taste to the foods to which they are added. Their use, however, is not limited to the food sector alone, but also extends to the medical-health sector; natural and synthetic sweeteners are used for example to impart a pleasant taste to medicinal or phytotherapeutic preparations introduced orally (syrups, herbal teas, infusions ...), but also and above all as a substitute for sugar in diabetic and dietetic products .

Also called sweeteners, sweeteners are classified according to different characteristics, the most important of which is the sweetening power . This parameter assigns a specific numerical value to each individual substance, calculated on the basis of the softening capacity. The reference, which corresponds to a sweetening power equal to one, is given by the common cooking sugar or sucrose. Expressing the concept in more technical terms, the sweetening power is "the relationship between the concentration of a solution of sucrose and that of a sweetener that has the same intensity of flavor". For example, an aqueous solution containing 0.25 grams of acesulfame, for the same volume and type of solvent, produces a sweet taste similar to that of a solution containing 50 grams of sugar. Consequently, the sweetening power of acesulfame is equal to 200 (50 / 0.25).

To enhance the sweetening power, eliminate unwanted aftertaste and avoid toxic effects from overdose, mixtures of different sweeteners are very often used. Those most used have an artificial origin (they are obtained in the laboratory by synthesis or semi-synthesis); this is the case of saccharin, cyclamate, acesulfame, sucralose and aspartame. Among the natural sweeteners, those most commonly used belong to the category of sugar alcohols; this is the case of sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol.

The substances with a sweetening power clearly superior to that of sugar are called intensive sweeteners. Thanks to this feature, intensive sweeteners are used in doses that are so small that they are irrelevant for calories; this is the case, for example, of aspartame, which despite having a caloric density of 4 KCal per gram, has a sweetening power 160-200 times higher than sugar.

Sweetening power of some artificial sweeteners

Acesulfame K E950200
Aspartame E951160-200
Salts of aspartame-acesulfame E962350
E952 cyclamate30
Neoesperidine dihydrocalcone E9591500
Neotame E9618000
Saccharin E954300
Sucralose E 955600

Sweetening power of some natural sweeteners


Carbohydrate: does not significantly increase blood sugar, but must be consumed in moderation.

Sucrose1Carbohydrate: high glycemic index, not recommended for diabetics.
Honey> 1

Due to the abundant presence of fructose, honey has a sweetening power slightly higher than refined sugar; it is however not recommended for diabetics, who must consume it in moderation.


Terpene extracted from licorice ( Glycyrrhiza glabra ); the sweet taste is perceived later but remains longer in the mouth. It can cause high blood pressure and edema if consumed in large quantities.


Polyalcohol: calorific value 40% lower than sugar; acariogen, useful for diabetics, can have laxative effects.


Polyalcohol: calorific value 36% lower than sugar; may have laxative effects.


Polyalcohol: 60% less calories than sugar; acariogen, useful for diabetics, can have laxative effects.


Fructose isomer with a calorific value 45% lower than sugar; useful for diabetics, acariogen.


Protein extracted from the fruit of Dioscoreophyllum cumminsii, a typical tropical rainforest vine. It is denatured at high temperatures.


Protein extracted from the fruit of Synsepalum dulcificum or Richadella dulcifica, a shrub native to East Africa. Change the perception of taste, converting acid into sweet.


Protein isolated from the African fruit of Thaumatococcus daniellii, whose sweetening action is very slow but persistent. Regularly admitted to European trade (E 957).

Osladina - Polipodoside A500-600

Steroid (steroidal saponins) isolated from the rhizome of Polypodium vulgare, called sweet fern or false licorice, widespread in temperate climates.


Protein isolated from the fruit of Pentadiplandra brazzeana, tropical climbing shrub.

Luo han guo300

Extracts of the fruit of Siraitia grosvenorii, perennial herbaceous creeper originating from South East Asia.


Terpene: leaves of Stevia rebuidiana, used by indigenous people in central and South America to sweeten maté.

Vegetable substances with a high sweetening power can also be reproduced in the laboratory using biotechnological sciences. Thanks to these techniques it is possible to transfer to other plants the genes that code for sweetening substances, for example producing sweeter melons, strawberries or salads than normal.


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