Do we need yet another sugar substitute? Really?

Just received a news release from a company that is launching a new, no calorie sugar substitute called Zsweet.

Their angle is that the consumer either has two choices in their Café Latte: Sugar, which they say is "high in calories and glycemic index"(sic) or artificial sweeteners which, again, they say "include chlorine, phenylalanine or aspartic acid."

Apparently, what makes Zsweet special is that they are "all-natural."

(Tiny, little, splinter of a thought: Splenda is made from sugar. Wouldn't that make it "all-natural," too? And if you want to go "all-natural," what about honey? And molasses? And, well, ahem, the list does go on, doesn't it?)

Welcome to the wonderful world of erythritol
This "all-natural" sugar substitute is a blend of erythritol and fruit extracts. And what is erythritol? The site asks the question, but does not supply the answer, telling us, instead, that it has been around "for thousands of years." However, they do discuss the manufacturing process which starts with fermintation of glucose by the yeast Moniliella Pollinis and goes through stages ranging from ultra-filtration to crystalization.

What mother nature don't see fit to do, man does. And it's brought us such wonders, hasn't it?

Cooking and baking and eating, oh my!
Although the news release said you can pretty much do everything you can do with sugar with this stuff, it doesn't really talk about the taste as compared to sugar. Specifically, can you tell the difference? But where the news release falls short, a November 2003 article from Men's Fitness steps in. It says that "diehard sugar addicts will be able to tell."

Wonder why the release didn't mention that.

Do you really need to replace the sugar in your diet, anyway?
Let's put sugar into perspective using their example: The Café Latte. At 15 calories per teaspoon, you are looking at, say, 15 or, for those who indulge, 30 calories for a cup. They may be empty calories (no real nutritional value) but in a daily diet of, say, 1800 calories, this is just too ridiculously tiny to fret about.

Of course, if you are eating an entire cake worth of sugar daily, that is a problem. But wouldn't you be better off stopping this than enabling the problem with a sugar substitute. Which, in and of itself, may introduce problems of its own.

Are sugar substitutes safe?
It depends who you trust. The American Dietetic Association says sugar substitutes are safe when used in amounts specified by the FDA. But the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest "believes that animal studies linking saccharin to cancer are a reason to ban it. He also contends there’s not enough evidence on the sweetener aspartame to be sure that it’s completely safe."

I'd rather just play it safe and avoid them.

Still interested?
You can buy the stuff online. The smallest amount, an 8.8 oz canister, is $9.99. A 1 lb box of sugar, on the other hand, is $1.39 at my Safeway. Helluva difference, eh?

Still hankering but not happy with that hefty price? Then get yourself to a Florida Costco. Because this month and next, Florida residents can get a discount on the stuff through a Costco Roadshow. Why just Florida? All I know is that 16.8% of the population is 65 years old or over (4.4% more than the national average) as of 2005 and that much closer to, well, you know. Do you suppose that figured into their calculations at all?