Does It Matter If A Sweetener Is “Natural”?

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The ancestral health community and other heath-conscious bloggers have increasingly embraced natural sweeteners such as honey, stevia, and maple syrup as healthier alternatives to refined sugar. But just how much healthier, really, are these natural sweeteners?

In this article, I’ll review the three major “natural” sweeteners typically used by Paleo dieters, and determine whether or not these foods belong in a healthy eating plan.

Find out if “natural” sweeteners like honey, stevia, and maple syrup belong in a #Paleo diet.

Honey

As I mentioned in the first article of this series, honey has long been an important food in the human diet. Its fructose to glucose ratio is similar to that of high fructose corn syrup, with about 38% fructose and 31% glucose (the rest being primarily water). (1) Honey also contains enzymes and other proteins, trace minerals, flavonoids and other polyphenols.

Although honey is “Paleo” even in the strictest sense, it can be easy to think of it as just another source of sugar; better than table sugar, perhaps, but still an indulgence that should be kept to an absolute minimum. Sugar is sugar, right? On the contrary, increasing evidence indicates that honey is a functional food with uniquely beneficial physiological effects.

For example, two human studies found that supplementing with 3-5 tbsp of honey per day (depending on body weight) increases serum antioxidant levels, including vitamin C and glutathione reductase. (2, 3) In another study, the same dose of honey lowered plasma prostaglandin levels by 48-63% after 15 days, signaling a reduction in inflammation. (4)

In overweight and obese patients, consumption of about 3.5 tbsp honey per day for a month resulted in lower LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and C-reactive protein (particularly in people with elevated values), and higher HDL cholesterol. (5) In another study, honey also reduced levels of homocysteine and blood glucose. (6)

Honey also has antibacterial activity, and can shorten the duration of acute bacterial diarrhea in children. (7) Honey might even be an effective treatment in some cases of h. pylori infection. (8) Other potential benefits of honey include antiviral, antitumor, and antimutagenic effects, and reduction of IBD-associated inflammation, but these have yet to be tested on humans. (9) So it would appear that honey has many benefits that outweigh the potential downsides of consuming a concentrated sweetener. I recommend using raw honey, which will have the most enzymes and nutrients when destructive heat has not been used.

Stevia

Stevia continues to be a contentious topic in the ancestral health world, with some respected bloggers endorsing it heartily and others cautioning against it. Although I’ve seen good points raised by both sides, the majority of the evidence indicates that stevia, used in reasonable quantities, is a harmless (and possibly beneficial) natural sweetener.

Because stevia contains almost no calories, one potential issue with stevia is that the sweet taste without the influx of sugar might confuse our insulin response (I’ll talk about this at length when I cover artificial sweeteners). While this is an understandable concern, stevia has actually been used traditionally as a treatment for diabetics and may actually improve blood sugar control. (10)

In one study, participants were given a dose of either sucrose or stevia before lunch. Compared with the sucrose preload, the stevia preload resulted in lower blood sugar after the meal and a lower insulin load, even compared with aspartame. (11) Also, even though the stevia provided fewer calories than the sucrose, participants didn’t compensate by consuming more calories at lunch.

Another small study with 16 volunteers found that 5-gram doses of stevia extract every 6 hours for three days improved glucose tolerance. (12) In insulin-resistant and diabetic rats, stevia improved insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and liver and kidney function. (13, 14, 15)

Stevia has also been called into question due to its potential negative impact on fertility. Stevia was used traditionally in South America as a contraceptive, although we don’t know how effective it was, and results from animal studies have been mixed.

One study found that doses of stevioside up to 2.5g/kg bodyweight per day didn’t affect the fertility of hamsters, even after three generations. (16) For a human, this would translate to about 0.34g/kg, so a person weighing 70 kg (about 150 lbs) would need to consume almost 24 stevia packets every single day to reach that dose. That’s far more than anyone would reasonably consume, even if they were consciously trying to maximize their stevia intake.

Although two other studies did find that stevia reduced fertility in male and female rats, those conclusions have since been refuted by studies using more reliable methods. (17, 18, 19) Overall, the risk of negatively impacting fertility by consuming moderate amounts of stevia is very slim, but I would still advise people to be wary of stevia if they’re struggling with infertility.

As for other potential benefits of stevia, a 2-year RCT in Chinese adults with mild hypertension found that taking 500mg of stevioside powder 3 times per day significantly reduced blood pressure compared with baseline and placebo, from an average of 150/95 to 140/89. (20) However, smaller doses didn’t provide the same benefit, and there isn’t enough evidence to recommend large doses of stevia as a supplement to lower blood pressure. (21)

Finally, stevia appears to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties, but thus far we don’t know whether these properties have practical significance in humans. (22, 23) Ultimately, I think stevia is a good sweetener to use for those who have blood sugar control issues and would prefer to use a non-caloric sweetener.

Maple Syrup, Coconut Sugar, and Molasses

Maple syrup, coconut sugar, and molasses are other popular natural sweeteners, but they don’t have the modern research or the traditional background that honey and stevia do. Composition-wise, they’re all relatively similar: they’re mostly sucrose, with some free glucose and fructose. (24) They all contain some minerals such as calcium, zinc, and iron, but they’re not going to contribute all that much to your daily mineral needs. (The exception to this might be molasses, which contains 20% of the daily value for potassium, 10% DV for calcium and vitamin B6, 15% DV for iron, and 8% DV for magnesium in just a tablespoon. (25))

All three are lower on the glycemic index than white sugar, which falls at around 65, with the award-winner being coconut sugar at 35. (26) Maple syrup has gotten a little research attention, and preliminary analytical and in vitro studies show that it has antioxidant and anticancer properties, as well as potential for the management of type 2 diabetes. (27, 28, 29, 30) However, this isn’t anywhere near being of clinical significance for humans.

If you’re just looking for an alternative to refined sugar to use occasionally, all of these are fine sweetener choices; they’re natural, minimally processed (depending on the quality you purchase), and still contain the minerals and phytonutrients that occur naturally. They also have favorable fructose:glucose ratios, which can be an important consideration for those with gut issues or fructose intolerance. (This is one reason I don’t recommend agave nectar.)

But if you’re looking for health benefits beyond simply replacing refined sugar with something a little healthier, current research (and tradition) sides with honey and stevia.

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Julie says

    Maple syrup tastes delish in my homemade granola. From 1 cup maple syrup down to 1/3 c. now with 1 c. coconut oil.

  2. EllenFitz says

    I read all the comments but I am still a little confused as to why agave nectar is bad if it’s organic and has a low glycemic index number. Can someone explain in layman’s terms for me? Also, if it is bad is it still better than refined white sugar? Than brown sugar? (I have a few bottles still to use up.)

  3. http://www.backpaintypes.net says

    I learned a lot form this article. Sugar was recently banned from my house in exchange of honey which I don’t get at all, I know that honey is definitely healthier than sugar but what I don’t understand is why everyone around me seemed to be such a fan of it. Now that I know its health benefits I might have just figured out why. I’m don’t have the healthiest eating habits which is probably why my family thinks I honey can do me good. The jar of honey that my mother bought me has been sitting in the fridge untouched because I didn’t really care much about it. I’ll try to incorporate honey to my diet now that I have all these information. Thanks!

    Regards,
    Toni Simpson

  4. Eli says

    I was recently wondering about the health benefits of homemade marshmallows – they use clean ingredients as well as gelatin, however, they are so sweet. The honey is not raw, and I’m wondering if that doesn’t compromise homemade marshmallows’ “health” status. I am very torn on that and I’d love to hear what others have to say on that.

    P.s. I make mommypotamus’ recipe for marshmallows, calls for 1 cup of honey that needs to be boiled.

    • Charlotte says

      I make these too! But I’m under no illusion that they are especially healthy! These are a rare treat for us and although the ingredients are good and wholesome of themselves I think there are much better ways to get gelatin into your diet and yes indeed, honey is much better for you raw – not boiled like crazy!.

      • Eli says

        Thanks! LOL somehow, I think that anything that I see on these blogs that I love is good for you. Mind you, some people post them as “healthy homemade marshmallows”. But then I tasted them and couldn’t help but wonder haha!
        I understand that they are much better than store-bough marshmallows, but it still needs to be approached as a treat.

  5. Lara Wilkin says

    I recently discovered yummy dates and got some date sugar. I know that it also comes in syrup form. Any thoughts on this versus honey?

  6. says

    Great article, Chris. I’m happy to hear that these sweeteners are for the most part “fine.” I have heard so many others say that “sugar” is “sugar,” and therefore none of them are ok. But clearly, there are differences between sweeteners.

    I don’t know. I just could never accept the taste of Stevia. It tastes like saccharin to me! I prefer raw, local honey (helps with seasonal allergies!), maple syrup and coconut sugar… depending on the application.

  7. PhilT says

    I’m confused as to why molasses would be considered “natural” when it comes out of the same refinery / sugar process as sugar that is presumably being avoided.

    If you split the extract from a sugar beet or sugar cane into two – sugar and molasses – then either both or neither are “natural”, surely ?

  8. MaryEllen says

    What does anyone know of coconut syrup? Glycemic index of 35 and supposedly the least processed of all sweeteners. It comes from the coconut tree much the same way as maple syrup. Is it ok?

  9. says

    What about things like Just Like Sugar, Swerve, xylitol and erythritol (sugar alcohols)? Some websites use these exclusively and say honey, fruit, grains, etc are starches and should not be consumed, but that these sugar substitutes do not affect blood sugar. I’ve read that they stay in your blood longer – true?

  10. says

    the commenter earlier is correct, stop wasting money trying to get kombucha to flourish and create the probiotics it wants to create using all the alternatives to white sugar
    kombucha likes white sugar it is it’s food, if you can’t tolerate even a small amount don’t drink kombucha, go to jun or just go without

  11. says

    I don’t freak out about sugar – Ray Peat suggests white is fine for his own ray peat reasons – google it – and i use coconut sugar in my tea, white sugar in my kombucha, rapadura in my water kefir (they love it) and various sugars in my cooking and when i teach about wholefoods-
    i understand some people are anti sugar due to fodmaps or other conditions and some are just simple being hard core dogmatic – my biggest beef as an educator and chef is that HONEY is fantastic and awesome all on it’s own, but should never be heated – apart from the fact that it does indeed lose it’s nutrition, it also becomes toxic – if you are to look at this through the filter of ayurveda – cooked honey creates AMA and that translates to toxins – so why not stick to rice malt or god forbid maple or something else in your baking – stevia is dubious to me unless it’s the actual leaf in it’s wholefood form and is a hard flavour to adapt too if you are not used to it – but if it is the only solution then i am sure it can be worked out – all the other versions of ols are still processed –
    lastly i create a product that uses bee pollen so i am pretty familiar with bee info – yes there are countries that feed the bees sugar, and pollen is for the babies, but there are also sustainable, conscious bee keepers around the world and here in australia that go to great efforts for it to be a good situation for the bees and us – but yes supermarket honey would be heated to keep it free flowing and from bees treated not very well – so if you can buy from local reliable bee keepers, the pollen bees collect is food of the gods…food for the bees and us too!

    • John says

      “…for his own Ray Peat reasons…” Ha! I’ve actually been experimenting with a little more sugar and honey in my diet recently. Haven’t noticed any real changes, except maybe a slight increase in body temp, getting more toward a normal level. I will say this- If you think white sugar is okay, but still keep the other “Paleo” prohibitions in place (like grains, soy, omega six vegetable oils, and high fructose corn syrup), it doesn’t add that many additional foods. So far as I can tell, it’s just ice cream, juice and lemonade, some chocolate, maybe soda from Mexico, and a spoonful or two of real sugar in your coffee. 95% of other paleo banned foods are still banned.

  12. kari says

    Woah 3-5 tablespoons of honey per day seems like a lot. It’s high FODMAPs. I think I would do really poorly with more than a teaspoon or two of honey per day because of the excess fructose. But given the antibacterial activity weighed against the poorly absorbed fructose, I wonder how that would really work out for someone with SIBO?

  13. says

    Just want to thank you Chris for sharing the research. Since I purchased your book I have been impressed with the amount of additional, research-based information you continually provide.

  14. Janet says

    If you are allergic to ragweed, you might want to stay away from stevia as they are related. I wish I had known this before I tried stevia! Now I know I am allergic to both.

  15. says

    I don’t tend to use many sweeteners because I don’t really have a sweet tooth. The odd time I do need something, I use either fruit (dried dates or other dried fruit), or I use raw (local) honey or a small amount of pure maple syrup.
    I do use a small amount of unrefined organic cane sugar to feed my water kefir and kombucha as that gives me the best results.

  16. Heidi says

    Rapadura sugar from sugar cane (not to be confused with refined white sugar) : “a 100 g serving of rapadura sugar provides between 600 and 1,000 mg of potassium, between 40 and 100 mg of magnesium, between 80 and 110 mg of calcium and between 50 and 100 mg of phosphorus. ”
    Furthermore, the same amount of rapadura sugar contains between 120 and 1,200 international units (IU) of vitamin A as well as trace amounts of B vitamins.”
    http://www.livestrong.com/article/524501-rapadura-sugar-and-its-health-benefits/
    For a natural sweetener, sounds pretty good….

    • Heidi says

      @ Marcus
      true…… I don’t think 100 grams a day would be beneficial to eat, tho a tsp or 2 would be fine IMO. I use that in my coffee/tea and just eat other sugar in it’s natural form via fruit…I also think it’s good to balance your sugar intake with some good fat and protein at the same time

  17. says

    Great Article! Have a look at Manuka Honey. It’s from New Zealand and can be more expensive – but has amazing medicinal qualities to it. It is my go to whenever my family are coming down with a ‘cold’. You can different levels of UMF (unique manuka factor) with it becoming very expensive above 10+!

  18. says

    Nice concise article Chris. I only use honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar. I am still a bit wary of Stevia. It still just reminds me of an artificial sweetener. If something seems too good to be true it probably is…this is my gut feeling on Stevia. No science, just my own feeling.

    • marcus volke says

      that’s an odd thing to say fitmum, you know that stevia is just a sweetener processed from a plant? Which is the same thing that sugar is; the only distinction is that stevia just happens to be non-caloric. As far as the studies go there’s a lot more reason to believe stevia is safer and healthier than ‘natural’ sugars.
      Artificial sweeteners are synthetically manufactured in a laboratory, so the association is a bit of a stretch.

  19. Orla says

    If you are eating raw honey for its associated health benefits then its best not to heat it at all. That goes for putting it in your tea/coffee. So over 40ºC or body temperature. Best to drizzle it on some cooler dish or eat it straight from the jar!

    In Ireland its about 5€ (7$?) a jar. I started taking it this winter. The difference between raw honey from my local beekeeper and the shop bought one is amazing. The raw one is delicately flavoured. The shop ones are usually heat treated which basically turns it into sugar syrop. I just don’t bother with the shop bought ones now. At that price I prefer to keep it as a beautiful treat.

  20. says

    For many years I have preferred luo han guo, also known as monk fruit. It is zero glycemic, has a superior taste to stevia, which if not blended with xylitol or erythritol can have a noticeable aftertaste.

    Many products now combine luo han with inulin (also a prebiotic fibre), or Erythritol.

    Of course Lustig believes sugar is sugar is sugar, regardless if it is honey, white sugar, brown sugar, etc.

    I believe the best plan for health is to avoid all sweeteners, and learn to like foods that are not sweetened.

    Nathan Zassman
    Aviva Natural Health Solutions

  21. Sabina says

    I’m an insulin dependent diabetic, and I truly wish that raw honey didn’t spike my blood sugar, but it certainly does. I grow stevia and make extract, and have toyed with powdering via dehydration, the dried, ground, green leaf just doesn’t appeal due to the scum factor…If I purchase it, I use the powdered organic sweet leaf variety, it’s less bitter and easy to travel with. The rest of my family uses raw honey, and the teenagers compromise with coconut sugar when they rebel.

  22. KZ says

    What about the notion that simple sugars don’t contain the vitamins and minerals for the body to process them, leading to nutrient depletion? Any validity to that?

    I see that molasses definitely don’t fall into that category. But what about the others?

  23. marcus volke says

    I’ve been hanging out for this article! I was hoping it would be a little longer though :( Thanks for taking my suggestion and giving coconut sugar a mention, it’s a pity we don’t have much data on coconut sugar.

    Will you be writing anymore articles in this series? It would be nice to know what you think a healthy amount of natural sweetener consumption per day is, and perhaps tie that in to the paleolithic background and explain how some cultures managed to remain healthy while eating rather large quantities of honey, thanks chris.

    • PhilT says

      Dextrose powder is pure glucose, less sweet than sugar. It’s the form of sugar we refer to as “blood sugar” and requires no digestion. It has a GI of 100.

  24. Brian says

    When comparing per-kg doses used in studies with small animals it is important to keep in mind that the clearance (and hence overall exposure) of most xenobiotics scales across species as body weight raised to the 0.75 power, not raised to the power 1.0 as is assumed when scaling doses by body weight directly. The example for scaling a 2.5g/kg dose in a 0.1 kg hamster (0.25g) is equivalent to a dose of 0.25*(70/0.1)^0.75=34g in a 70kg human (roughly 0.5g/kg). Thirty-four 1-gram packets is still a heck of a lot of stevia.

    • marcus volke says

      actually he said helped control blood sugar and insulin resistance, not honey. Any benefit of these sweeteners in attributable to their phytonutrients, there are a lot more things that effect insulin signalling than just the sugar content of food.

  25. says

    Thank you so much for spelling this out. I have nearly finished reading your book and after having no sugar for four months except an occasional square of 85% chocolate, have found the thing I miss most is a bit of honey or maple syrup from time to time. I believe I have fructose malabsorption as I can never eat foods that contain high fructose corn syrup without reaction. Also no onion or anything with onion powder or leeks etc. Also don’t tolerate raw apple. It’s a minefield out there!!

  26. Uli says

    I have swallowing issues, so all my supplements must be taken in a powdered form, so that I can mix it in some liquid. And, the pure, pharmaceutical grade works best for me. Why am I talking supplements here? Because, if you want pure, pharmaceutical grade Stevia, go to http://www.BulkSupplements.com and save yourself some money! Check out their other offerings as well. You can also get their supplements on Amazon.com. I have placed many orders with them. They are located in Nevada, have excellent customer service and ship quickly, plus their products are the best in their field.

    I stay away from anything with alcohol, and additional ingredients, like natural flavors. What is natural flavor anyway!

  27. Michele says

    I use stevia in my Ice Tea and Honey or Maple sugar on my “faux” sweet potatoes pancakes. I grow stevia in my backyard so I will mix fresh stevia leaves with fruit when it’s not at it’s prime to punch up the sweetness.

  28. says

    Thank you for the facts about honey. I have noticed I feel better on the days I remember to have some (I have a Hashi’s diagnosis).

    I have been using a Manuka honey, which claims medicinal properties so of course I bought some, lol! It is delicious; it tastes slightly different from regular raw honey. Might be worthy of inclusion in a future blog post?

  29. Heather Burkhardt says

    Thanks for this article. One of our little pleasures on a very strict Autoimmune Paleo diet is a small teaspoon of honey in the comb. (OF COURSE, eaten with an adequate amount of protein to keep our blood sugar levels stable!) ;) bwahahaha

    • Leaf Eating Carnivore says

      It’s practically pure fructose, with all the attendant evils thereof – a liver nasty.

    • John Es says

      The word “nectar” is a minomer, in this context, clever marketing.

      Quoting Dr. Art Ayers:
      “Agave Syrup is Fructose
      Agave syrup contains fructose produced by industrial processing of the fructose polysaccharides, inulin, in agave extracts. I cannot understand why anyone would use this commercially processed fructose as a sweetener. It doesn’t raise blood sugar as much as sucrose, because there is much more fructose than sugar (like very high fructose corn syrup) it raises blood fructose levels instead, which is much, much worse.”

  30. Peg says

    Has anyone heard that honey becomes toxic above 250 degrees? If so, this could be an issue when using it for baking.

    • Lizi says

      wow- that is very interesting info about coconut palm sugar that i had no idea about. that is too bad as i love coconut sugar, in moderation, and it is economical. now i am having serious second thoughts, until i know more about it and its sustainability.

      thank you very much, christine, for sharing that information.

  31. Vishva Mitra says

    As always, great info, well written,, a true service for all, thank you so much, and please keep it on,

  32. Gemma says

    If honey lowers blood glucose, can/should it be used by diabetics or people with insulin resistance? If so, how?

    • einstein says

      I dońt think so. What lowers blood glucose most is avoiding all sweets. My mom is type 1. Uses a little stevia and has a bit of potatos and rice here and there to avoid ketosis, but she is VLC and absolutely fine.

  33. says

    To me stevia is a tough one as of course our ancestors would never have had access to anything like it. It is still a refined and concentrated, manufactured product.
    Honey is tough too as primal societies would not have had squeeze bottle super liquid type honey and were more likely to consume honeycomb.

    • Charlotte says

      ‘To me stevia is a tough one as of course our ancestors would never have had access to anything like it.’
      Why not? It’s a plant.

      ‘It is still a refined and concentrated, manufactured product.’
      Not if you use the fresh leaf or dried powdered leaf or if you make or buy a natural extract.

  34. Daniel says

    Can anyone tell me what VitaFiber is and if there is an US equivelent? I found a recipe for homemade Quest Bars, but it calls for VitaFiber which is only sold online. What would you use instaed if you were me? I’m a T1D so I don’t tolerate most sugars well, but need to introduce about 20g of carbs pre-workout and have been looking to make my own (cost effective) bars. Based on the article it looks like Stevia would be my natural alternative. http://www.bioneutra.ca/product_vitafiber.htm

    • Bill says

      To use raw organic honey you want a Jun scoby not kombucha. The anti-bacterial properties of honey can damage kombucha scobys over time. I’ve never tried it with kefir but I imagine you will have similar issues.

      Jun is available from Brooklyn Kombucha.

      • TERRY says

        I wonder if gradually adding a small amount of honey to kefir might create an adapted colony that can eventually handle more or all honey? I guess I’ll have to try it.

        • Bill says

          I implore you to save your time and money and not bother. I agree its possible but the probability of doing so safely outside a sterile lab environment is minimal at best. If you need more proof just do a web search and you’ll find plenty of folks who have tried and failed. If you are trying to eliminate cane sugar, I suggest jun, if you just want to incorporate the benefits/flavor of honey, use ‘spare’ cultures or consider a secondary fermentation using honey.

    • MaryEllen says

      I have read that you shouldn’t because of the natural antimicrobial quality of the honey and that it isn’t an appropriate food sour e for the feeding microbes. It might have been on the Cultures For Health website that I read this.

  35. says

    Please consider the bees before you buy honey. Bees are starving and need honey for their very survival, whereas we do not. They are dying in unprecedented numbers worldwide with huge consequences for our food supply.

    Most beekeepers take the bees’ honey and feed them sugar, which weakens them and takes their vital food source. They also do many other things to bees that are very cruel and harmful.

    My husband’s web site has articles on honey bees and their current desperate plight for survival. See also Michael Thiele’s web site http://www.gaiabees.com He is an amazing west coast bee lover/’keeper’ with a lovely presence.

  36. Cindy says

    Thanks for this great article. I use about a teaspoon of raw honey in my one cup of coffee each morning and have an occasional Paleo treat made with honey. I’m eating mostly Paleo, but after an initial 16-pound weight loss, the weight loss suddenly stopped and the bloating/inflammation is back, so I am trying to figure out what is causing it. I had wondered about the small amount of honey that I consume. I do not consume any processed sugar.

  37. says

    Excellent article. I’m never disappointed by your writing and I really appreciate your attention to the scientific component and inclusion of references. I will be sharing the info with others. Thanks!

  38. Deserae says

    It was my understanding Maple Syrup does have a traditional background… Native American populations have been boiling it down for a long time before they taught European Settlers to do it.

    I am glad to read your opinion on Stevia. I have been avoiding it particularly because I am trying to maximize my fertility, even though the connection seems weak, at best.

    Still, is there any benefit of using the dark liquid extracts or whole leaf versus clear ones? The clear ones certainly are easier to work with.

  39. Alex Leaf says

    For the hamster dosage with stevia, you must convert it to the human-equivalent dosage (for the hamster, divide by 7.4). 2.5g/kg becomes .33g/kg, making your example value become 23, not 175. That is a significant difference.

    • Eric Vega says

      Jennifer, in the spirit of full disclosure, you should indicate in your article that Xylitol is not tolerated by everyone, and that there is a “learning curve” for your gut bacteria when using Xylitol. Xylitol is not processed by our normal nutrition mechanisms, but rather passes into the intestine where various gut bacteria actually utilize the xylitol in a fermentation process, breaking it up into short-chain fatty acids that we do actually end up processing (which, in fact does not make xyltol actually calorie free although the caloric contribution is minimal). The unfortunate side effects of the fermentation process is gas and bloating for many, and until you have enough of the right gut bacteria to process the xylitol there is an unfortunate side effect of very loose stools. I can attest to the above from personal experience with xylitol. I’m not refuting the positive points you bring up in your blog post, but in the interest of full disclosure, a person needs to be aware of the big negatives to xylitol.

      • Jenifer says

        Thanks for weighing in about xylitol, Eric. I personally never had much of an issue with digestive upset and I see it as a transitory thing, not a “big negative.” But you’re probably right that I ought to include those points in my blog post.

        • Kim says

          Great to hear both sides of xylitol. One thing people should be aware of if they have dogs is that it is extremely toxic to them, even in small doses. I almost lost my dog to xylitol toxicity. So keep that xylitol out of reach of the pooches!

    • MaryEllen says

      Last night I made a rhubarb dessert with xylitol. We have used it in the past by the spoonful sprinkled on berries. Within 20 minutes of finishing I had a belly ache. There was more in this serving than I had ever had before. I won’t breaking with it again or eating more than a sprinkle like before.

      • Jenifer says

        IMO, Mr. Nagel is not seeing the big picture here. Xylitol has been used in Finland since the ’30’s and has a a long record of safety apart from being toxic to dogs.
        Initially it may cause GI upset, but this is temporary and is often due to a herxheimer effect, since it is known to kill Candida.

  40. says

    The only sweetener I can eat is raw honey. Raw organic cane sugar isn’t a major problem for me either, although my body seems to prefer honey. However, actual phaux-sweeteners like stevia mess me up really bad (stomach pain within 20 minutes).

    • DebbieM says

      I wonder if it’s pure stevia or a mixed product that messed you up…most stevia sold these days has other ingredients like erythitol which has a pretty drastic effect on our family’s digestive systems. I urge people to check labels and look for a pure product. Omica brand or Sweet Leaf seem to be the best we’ve found. Or better yet, grow it yourself!

      • says

        I recently posted about this on my own blog under the dangers of stevia. Most brands are not pure stevia and are extracted from chemical processes making them toxic. I use sweetleaf with no issues as it is organic and extracted from natural processes. I also use raw honey and I have a diabetic friend that uses it and it does not even raise her blood sugar. Primalpsychologist.com

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