The Dishonest Truth: Part One of Two

by Joel on February 24, 2010

The voting public has come to expect, quite rationally, that most politicians, when either promoting their own views or denigrating the positions of their opponents, will from time to time take something truthful, then twist the words. A harder matter to rebut though, is when the facts maybe haven’t been twisted so much as taken out of context against an opponent. We are also not surprised when some food companies or businesses tout something on the front of the package that is qualified on the back. However, our surprise may not come until after we have begun eating the product or informed of the qualification by a friend or colleague.

Most low calorie, or zero calorie foods are particularly desired by diabetics or people without diabetes but trying to control their weight and/or sugar/simple carbohydrate levels. One such “zero calorie” food is grantulated sucralose (Splenda is the trade name for sucralose.). Splenda, or sucralose has no calories. For baking purposes, sucralose is often sold in granulated form by adding maltodextrin, which does contain calories. If granulated sucralose is not calorie free, how can they say on the front of the package that it doesn’t contain any calories? They do it with regulations established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has allowed a little loophole through which claims of no calories for some products can be made for the food or ingredient sold. The FDA provides that if one serving of a food has less than one gram of a particular ingredient, the manufacturer can list the product as “sugar free” or “transfat free” for example. Such is the loophole case with granulated sucralose. The loophole explains why many candy bars or crackers are listed as having two or more servings even though the bar or cracker bag is small enough that it would normally be eaten all at once, and likely not shared. Thus, if a candy bar contains actually contains 1.5 grams of trans fat, dividing the bar into two results in each serving containing less than one gram of trans fat, so “poof” the transfat is gone.

My suspicion about granulated sucralose was first raised when I noticed that maltodextrin is the first listed ingredient for such sucralose products. Maltodextrin is not calorie free, as it is a carbohydrate and carbohydrates have four calories per gram (unless it falls into the alcohol exception to the rule; alcohol contains seven calories per gram).

I don’t dispute that granulated sucralose products can be very helpful to those needing to count calories or limit carbohydrates, or even more particularly, restrict high glycemic index foods. Granulated sucralose as sold to the public contains one-half gram per serving, or one teaspoon, contains, per the manufacturer’s claim, less than 4 calories per serving, which clearly implies that it contains more than 3 calories per serving. The calories don’t show up on the label, though, because 9.7 ounces of granulated sucralose as sold by most manufacturers is divided up into 550 servings of one half (0.5) gram or one teaspoon each. One teaspoon of granulated sucralose, being less than one gram, can then be listed as containing no calories.

Nevertheless, an entire 9.7 ounce (275 gram) 550 serving bag of granulated sucralose has at least 1,650 calories, based on the three calories per serving, as shown above. For table sugar, one cup contains 48 teaspoons, or around 720 calories. And what about the calorie count of a cup of granulated sucralose ? The manufacturers claim that granulated sucralose can be substituted cup-for-cup for sugar. Thus, there would also be 48 teaspoons in a cup of granulated sucralose, for a calorie count of at least 144, based on granulated sucralose having at least 3 calories per teaspoon serving. That’s a significant difference in calories between the two products. Still, anyone pouring granulated sucralose freely into several servings daily of tea, coffee, or baked goods might want to know that granulated sucralose is not calorie free (only plain sucralose has no calories). I have a sweet tooth, and it is good to know that while I can drastically cut down on calories with granulated sucralose, if I’m consuming large amounts of it in a day, I need to consider such in my calorie count.

Go on now, have your spot of tea, but if you want it sweet and calorie free but plan to drink many a cup, you might want to use ungranulated sucralose, aspartame, saccharine or other artificial sweetener, any of which may still have small amounts of maltodextrin added to prevent caking, but not nearly as much as is needed for sucralose to measure, cup for cup, the same as sugar.

Part Two of The Dishonest Truth will be posted Thursday or Friday, depending on what time of day I post and where you live.

Update: I had time conflicts in finishing Part II. As well, I try to make sure my posts don’t appear on Sunday, in order that Richard’s posting of the “Hymn of the Day” is always in the lead. So, Part II will be posted on Monday.

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The Dishonest Truth: Part Two of Two | connexions
03.01.10 at 10:56 am
The dishonest truth, part III | connexions
03.06.10 at 7:38 am

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