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Artificial Sweeteners

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  • Jeonbuk National University, Iksan, South Korea

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Artificial Sweeteners provide the sweetness of natural sugar without the calories and produce a low glycemic response. These sweeteners are used instead of sucrose (table sugar) to sweeten foods and beverages. Consumers and food manufacturers have long been interested in dietary sweeteners to replace sucrose in foods. This article goes into a lot of details about the different types of sweeteners such as saccharin, acesulfame potassium, aspartame, neotame and sucralose, their uses, chemistry and their potential effects on health. These sweeteners form acute and chronic effects on human health.
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International Journal of Research & Review (www.ijrrjournal.com) 120
Vol.6; Issue: 1; January 2019
International Journal of Research and Review
www.ijrrjournal.com E-ISSN: 2349-9788; P-ISSN: 2454-2237
Review Paper
Artificial Sweeteners
Anushkkaran Periyasamy
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Jaffna, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
ABSTRACT
Artificial Sweeteners provide the sweetness of natural sugar without the calories and produce a low
glycemic response. These sweeteners are used instead of sucrose (table sugar) to sweeten foods and
beverages. Consumers and food manufacturers have long been interested in dietary sweeteners to
replace sucrose in foods. This article goes into a lot of details about the different types of sweeteners
such as saccharin, acesulfame potassium, aspartame, neotame and sucralose, their uses, chemistry and
their potential effects on health. These sweeteners form acute and chronic effects on human health.
Keywords: Artificial sweeteners; adverse effects; potential toxicity
1. INTRODUCTION
Artificial sweeteners are many times
sweeter than table sugar, smaller amounts
are needed to create the same level of
sweeteners, and which are either not
metabolized in the human body or do not
significantly contribute to the energy
content of foods and beverages. Those
provide the sweeteners of sugar without the
calories and produce a low glycemic
response. [1] Glycemic response to food is
the effect that food has on blood sugar
levels after consumption. [2] Consumers and
food manufacturers have long been
interested in dietary sweeteners to replace
sucrose in foods. Because recently these
products have received increased attention
due to their effects on glucose regulation.
These exceed the sweeteners of sucrose by a
factor of 30-13,000 times because of these
include substances from several different
chemical classes. [1] These sweeteners are
widely used in baked goods, carbonated
beverages, powdered drink mixtures, jams,
jellies and dairy products. [3] These are
regulated by the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA).
Sweeteners have been classified as
natural sweeteners and artificial sweeteners.
These artificial sweeteners further classified
as nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners
depending on whether they are a source of
calories. The nutritive sweeteners include
the monosaccharide polyols (e.g., sorbitol,
mannitol, and xylitol) and the disaccharide
polyols (e.g., maltitol and lactitol). The non-
nutritive sweeteners are better to known as
artificial sweeteners. [1]
Artificial sweeteners have some
ideal requirements. They should provide
sweetness with no unpleasant aftertaste,
should have little or no calories, should be
economical to produce, should not be
degraded by heat when cooked and should
not be carcinogenic or mutagenic.
Carcinogenic is having the potential to
cause cancer, and mutagenic is a physical or
chemical agent that changes the genetic
material of the organism. [3]
The main reasons for using artificial
sweeteners are weight lose, dental care,
diabetes mellitus, reactive hypoglycemia
and low cost. [1] Dental caries are also
known as teeth decay or cavities.
Breakdown of teeth due to activities of
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Vol.6; Issue: 1; January 2019
bacteria. This occurs due to acid made from
sugar on the tooth surfaces. Simple sugars in
foods are the primary energy source of these
bacteria. [4] Reactive hypoglycemia refers to
low blood sugar that occurs after a meal
usually within 4 hours after eating. This can
occur in both people with and without
diabetes and is thought to be more common
in overweight individuals. Reactive
hypoglycemia is known as the result of too
much insulin being produced and released
by the pancreas following a large sugar or
carbohydrate based meals. [5] To reduce
these activities, most of the people are using
artificial sweeteners.
The main five sugar substitutes for
use in a variety of foods are saccharin,
acesulfame potassium, aspartame, neotame
and sucralose. Characteristic features of
these five artificial sweeteners are given in
the Table 1.
Table 1. Characteristic features of artificial sweeteners [1]
Common
name
Brand names
Number of times
sweetener than
sucrose
kcal/g
Common uses
Saccharin
Sweet’N Low
Sweet Twin
Necta Sweet
200-700
0
Soft drinks, Tabletop sweetener, Jams, Chewing gum, Baked
goods
Acesulfame
K
Sunett
Sweet One
200
0
Tabletop sweeteners, Candies, Chewing gum, Dairy products
Aspartame
Nutra Sweet
Natrataste
Equal
180-200
4
Soft drinks, Yoghurt, Pharmaceuticals
Neotame
Neotame
7000-13000
0
Baked goods, Soft drinks, Chewing gum, Jams, Jellies, Puddings,
Processed fruit and fruit juices
Sucralose
Splenda
600
0
Frozen deserts, Fruit juices, Chewing gum, gelatins
1.1 Structural requirements for sweetness
The generally accepted theory for the
phenomenon of sweetness was developed
by Shallenberger and Acree. According to
this theory, a molecular system of a proton
donor and proton acceptor is necessary.
Changes in the distance between groups, as
well as changes in electronic structure
influence the occurrence of the sweet taste
and may change the general taste
perception, sometimes eliminating
sweetness totally, or changing it to
bitterness. [6]
1.2 General Uses
1.2.1 Foods and Beverages
Foods and beverages are the most
important fields of application of artificial
sweeteners, with calorie reduction being the
main goal. Single sweeteners or
combinations with other sweet substances.
Artificial sweeteners can be used in diabetic
foods and beverages; depending on the type
of product, either as single sweetening
agents or combined with bulk sugar
substitutes suitable for diabetic
consumption. Beverage uses of artificial
sweeteners account for more than 50% of
human consumption; sugar replacement by
artificial sweeteners is simple, as
carbohydrates do not play any important
functional role in beverages. Other
important applications are fruit flavored
dairy products and desserts. [7]
1.2.2 Tabletop sweeteners
For household use, artificial sweeteners are
formulated into table-top sweeteners, such
as sweetener tablets, powders and spoon-by-
spoon products, and liquids.
1.2.3 Pharmaceuticals
Artificial sweeteners are used to mask
undesired flavors and tastes of active
pharmaceutical ingredients, e.g., bitterness,
whenever the pharmaceuticals are intended
for use by diabetics. Sweeteners are used in
syrups, and soluble tablets and powders.
1.2.4 Cosmetics
Several types of cosmetics, especially oral
hygiene products, are sweetened to make
them more pleasant for consumers. For oral
hygiene products (e.g., toothpaste,
mouthwash, etc.), noncariogenic ingredients
have to be used. The desired sweetness level
Anushkkaran Periyasamy. Artificial Sweeteners
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Vol.6; Issue: 1; January 2019
is adjusted with an additional quantity of
artificial sweetener.
1.3 Saccharin
Saccharin is the first and oldest artificial
sweetener that has been used for over a
century to sweeten foods and beverages
without adding calories. Saccharin has been
approved by FDA for use in more than 100
countries. [3]
1.3.1 History
Saccharin was discovered by Fahlberg &
Remsen in 1879 at John Hopkins
University. This was found after those
chemists were researching the oxidation
mechanisms of toluene sulfonamide. They
were working with coal-tar derivatives.
During their research, a substance
accidentally splashed on Fahlberg’s finger
and he noticed the substance had a sweet
taste, which he traced to the chemical
commonly known as saccharin. Saccharin
enjoyed great commercial success in periods
of short sugar supply, e.g., during world
wars I and II. [8]
In 1997, the FDA proposed a ban on
saccharin because of concerns about rats
that developed bladder cancer after
receiving high doses of saccharin. Foods
containing saccharin were required to carry
a label warning that sweetener could be a
health hazard and that it was found to cause
cancer in laboratory animals. That label
contains “use of this product may be
hazardous to your body”. In 2000, the
National Toxicology Programme
determined that saccharin should no longer
be listed as a potential cancer-causing agent
because mechanistic studies have shown
that these results apply only to rats.
Mechanistic studies that examine have a
substance work in a body. Human
epidemiology studies have shown no
consistent evidence that saccharin is
associated with bladder cancer incidence.
Because the bladder tumors in the rats are
due to a mechanism not relevant to human
and there is no clear evidence that saccharin
causes cancer in humans. Epidemiology
studies are that studies of patterns, causes
and control of disease in groups of people.
In 2001, saccharin was officially declared
safe and the ban was removed. [9]
1.3.2 Chemistry
Saccharin is formed by an initial
reaction between toluene and chlorosulfonic
acid. Synthesis of saccharin is explained in
Figure 1. [7]
Figure 1. Synthesis of saccharin (Remsen-Fahlberg synthesis)
After ingestion, saccharin is not
absorbed or metabolized. Instead, it is
excreted, unchanged via the kidneys. [1]
Slightly bitter taste and metallic taste and
for this reason is sometimes combined with
other sweeteners. For an example, saccharin
is often used with aspartame in diet
carbonated soft drinks. [3] The form used as
Saccharin
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an artificial sweetener is sodium salt and
calcium salt, especially by people restricting
their dietary sodium intake. [1]
1.3.3 Uses
Important fields of application are
soft drinks, tabletop sweeteners, and
desserts. For taste reasons, blends with other
artificial sweeteners, or combinations with
reduced sugar levels are preferred wherever
such blends are approved. In oral hygiene
products, saccharin masks undesired tastes
of other ingredients. In starter feed for
livestock, saccharin is used to avoid reduced
feed intake after weaning. Besides its
applications as an artificial sweetener,
saccharin is used in electrolytic nickel
deposition. Addition of saccharin to the
nickel salt solutions increases the hardness
and brightness of the nickel plate. This
effect is apparently specific to saccharin. [10]
1.3.4 Toxicology
Saccharin causes a headache, breathing
difficulties, skin eruptions and diarrhea.
1.4 Acesulfame potassium
This is a general purpose sweetener,
white crystalline structure, high-intensity,
non-nutritive sweetener, non-carcinogenic
and stable under high temperatures. So it
does not break down in heat, therefore often
used in baked products. It is used in over
4000 products in approximately 90
countries. The “K” refers to the mineral
potassium, which is naturally found in our
bodies. [3]
1.4.1 History
Acesulfame-K was discovered in
1967 by chemist Karl Clauss and Jensen
during investigations on oxathiazinone
dioxides. The sweet taste was found by
chance. Several other oxathiazinone
dioxides taste sweet but have less favorable
characteristics. Acesulfame-K was approved
in the United States in 1988 for specific
uses, including a tabletop sweetener. In
1998, the FDA approved acesulfame-K to
be use in beverages. In specially, it has been
used to decrease the bitter aftertaste of
aspartame. FDA continues to support the
use of acesulfame-K in diabetic and low-
calorie food. [1]
1.4.2 Chemistry
Acesulfame-K is formed by an
initial reaction between 4-chlorophenol and
sodium. Synthesis of acesulfame-K is
explained in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Synthesis of acesulfame-K
Acesulfame-K is not metabolized by
the body and is not stored in the body. It is
quickly absorbed and excreted in urine
without undergoing any modification.
Pharmacokinetic studies show that 95% of
the consumed sweeteners basically ends up
excreted in the urine. [11]
1.4.3 Uses
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Vol.6; Issue: 1; January 2019
Acesulfame K is used in all fields of
applications of artificial sweeteners.
Common applications are table-top
sweeteners; beverages; foods, such as dairy
products, desserts, bakery products,
confectionery, chewing gum, pickles, and
marinated fish; oral hygiene products and
pharmaceuticals. Owing to its synergistic
characteristics, acesulfame K is often used
in sweetener blends, and in combination
with bulk sweeteners in products requiring
good stability, e.g., confectionery or bakery
products.
1.4.4 Toxicology
Acesulfame-K contains methylene chloride
which is a known carcinogen. Long-term
exposure to methylene chloride can cause a
headache, depression, nausea, mental
confusion, liver and kidney effects.
Acesulfame-K’s breakdown in the body
forms the byproduct acetoacetamide, which
is toxic at high doses and which has been
shown to cause tumor growth in the thyroid
gland in rats, rabbits and dogs. Only 1%
acetoacetamide is accumulated for three
months. [3]
1.5 Aspartame
One of the most debated sweeteners.
Aspartame has a sugar-like taste. It can be
safely heated to high temperatures with
some loss of sweeteners. It has been used in
over 6000 different types of products. [12]
1.5.1 History
Aspartame was discovered in 1965
by G. D. Searle when he was studying new
treatments for gastric ulcers. Tetrapeptide is
normally produced in the stomach which
was used by the biologist to test new anti-
ulcer drugs. One of the most important steps
in the process was to make an intermediate,
aspartyl-phenylalanine methyl ester to
synthesis tetrapeptide. When chemist was
synthesis this tetrapeptide, accidentally, a
small amount of the compound landed on
the chemist’s hand. Without noticing the
compound, the chemist licked his finger and
discovered a sweet taste. After realizing it
was not likely to be toxic.
It was first approved by the FDA in
1981 as a tabletop sweetener; in 1996, it
was approved as a general-purpose
sweetener in all foods and drinks.
Aspartame is sometimes blended with more
stable sweetener saccharin. [13]
1.5.2 Chemistry
Aspartame is made by joining L-
phenylalanine or L-phenylalanine methyl
ester with L-aspartic acid. Synthesis of
aspartame is explained in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Synthesis of aspartame
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Aspartame breaks down into small
amounts of methanol, aspartic acid and
phenylalanine during the digestion.
Methanol is non-drinking alcohol, injecting
of that can lead to toxicity and death within
a few hours. The body also breaks down this
methanol into formaldehyde which turns
into formic acid in the liver. Formaldehyde
and formic acid both are toxic.
Our body produces formaldehyde in
amounts thousands of times greater than we
get from the sweetener which is used by the
body to make important substances. Formic
acid rarely builds up because the body uses
formaldehyde so quickly and if there were
an excess, it would be eliminated through
urine or broken down into CO2 and water.
Finally, the aspartame in diet produces so
little amount of ethanol. [14]
1.5.3 Uses
The sensory characteristics of
aspartame allow its use in all common
sweetener applications. Limitations are
imposed by its susceptibility to hydrolytic
decomposition and limited temperature
stability.
1.5.4 Toxicology
FDA has mandated packaging bear a
warning label to prevent individuals with
the rare genetic disorder phenylketonuria
from ingesting the aspartame.
Phenylketonuria is an inborn error of
metabolism that leads to attenuated
metabolism of the amino acid
phenylalanine. Phenylketonuria can lead to
behaviour problems and mental disorders.
Individuals who suffer from this disease
have an insufficient amount of the enzyme
phenylalanine hydroxylase which is
required to breakdown the phenylalanine.
Without the presence of this enzyme,
phenylalanine accumulates.
Due to the methanol, aspartic acid
and phenylalanine which came from the
digestion of aspartame can cause the
following symptoms: headache, blurred
vision, brain tumors, eye problems, memory
loss and nausea. [15]
The aspartame consists of aspartic
acid which is a well-documented
excitotoxin. 3 amino acids such as
glutamate, aspartate and cysteine that excite
our neurons can be called as excitotoxin.
These neurotransmitters (amino acids)
excessively stimulate the nerve cells to
either damage or kill. Excitotoxicity may be
involved in spinal cord injury, stroke and
hearing loss. [16]
1.6 Neotame
Neotame is the newest sweetener
and a derivative of aspartame. A t-butyl
group is added to the free amine group of
aspartic acid. This could be a super sweet
deal for food and beverage manufacturers,
all the sweetness of sugar without a metallic
after-taste plus at a fraction of the amount of
sweetener needed compared to other sugar
substitutes. The neotame was approved in
2002 as a general purpose sweetener,
excluding in meat and poultry by FDA. [1]
1.6.1 History
After the success of aspartame in the
market, there were calls for developing a
novel sweetener possessing additional
qualities such as higher heat stability, fewer
restrictions and higher sweetener potency
which means less amount to achieve the
same sweetness at a lower cost. Therefore
scientists synthesized thousands of
compounds based on the simple structure of
aspartame. End of the research, neotame
came up with the desirable qualities among
those synthesized compounds. Neotame was
approved by FDA for general use in 2002.
[17]
1.6.2 Chemistry
When we add the t-butyl group to
the free amine group of aspartic acid, it
leads to a second hydrophobic group and
results in a product that is 30-60 times
sweeter than aspartame. [18] Figure 4 shows
the synthesis of neotame.
Anushkkaran Periyasamy. Artificial Sweeteners
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Vol.6; Issue: 1; January 2019
Figure 4. Synthesis of neotame
Neotame is rapidly metabolized by
hydrolysis of the methyl ester via esterase
present throughout the body. It forms a
minor amount of methanol that the body
absorbs. This process yields de-esterified
neotame. Neotame and de-esterified
neotame are rapidly clear from the plasma,
which is completely eliminated from the
body with recovery in urine and feces
within 72 hours. It is safe for who suffer
from phenylketonuria because t-butyl group
is added to the free amine group of aspartic
acid. This t-butyl group typically break the
peptide bond between the aspartic acid and
phenylalanine, thus reduce the availability
of phenylalanine which is responsible for
phenylketonuria. [19]
1.6.3 Toxicology
Neotame causes some of the toxic
effects in the human such as it to reveal
changes in body weight and food
consumption, headache and hepatotoxicity
at high dosages.
1.7 Sucralose
Sucralose is a sucrose molecule in which
three of the hydroxyl groups have been
replaced by Cl atoms. Sucralose is also heat
stable which quality makes it a superb
sweetener for cooking and baking. It retains
its sweeteners significantly longer than
aspartame. Figure 5 shows structures of
sucrose and sucralose.
Figure 5. Structures of sucrose and sucralose
1.7.1 History
Sucralose was accidentally
discovered by Tate & Lyle in 1976, was
looking for ways to use sucrose as a
chemical intermediate. Ironically, sucralose
states out as cane sugar but ends up 600
times sweeter than table sugar. It came on
the scene in 1976 and was approved by the
FDA in 1999 for use in 15 food categories.
After some laboratory experiments which
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Vol.6; Issue: 1; January 2019
changes the sugar molecule, its structure
now prevents it from being absorbed by the
body. [20]
1.7.2 Chemistry
Synthesis of sucralose is shown in the figure
6.
Figure 6. Synthesis of sucralose
TrCl = triphenylmethyl chloride; DMAP = 4-dimethylaminopyridine
Sucralose is poorly absorbed in the human
and the majority of ingested sucralose
excreted unchanged in the feces.
1.7.3 Toxicology
Sucralose is responsible for the
shrunken thymus glands with diets of 5%
sucralose, and also it causes diarrhea and
dizziness.
2. HEALTH BENEFITS OF
ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
Artificial sweeteners are not
carbohydrates. So generally they don’t raise
blood sugar levels and cause diabetes. They
have no calories. In distinction, every gram
of normal table sugar contains four calories.
They are suitable for obesity. They do not
promote dental caries. [1]
3. ADVERSE EFFCTS OF ARTIFICIAL
SWEETENERS
Saccharin, acesulfame-K and
aspartame induced DNA damage in human
peripheral lymphocytes. Sucralose has been
well-tried through scientific
experimentation to cause a decrease in
beneficial micro-organisms. Under acidic
conditions, acesulfame-K formed minute
quantities of acetoacetamide and
acetoacetamide-N-sulfonic acid. While
under basic conditions, acetoacetic acid and
acetoacetamide-N-sulfonic acid are formed.
These degradation products may cause
DNA strand breaks. [3]
Toxic potential of artificial sweeteners for
the human body are shown in the Table 2.
Table 2. Toxic potential of artificial sweeteners [1]
Common
name
ADI
(mg/kg)
Acute
Chronic
Saccharin
5
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
Low birth weight, bladder
cancer, hepatotoxicity
Acesulfame-
K
15
Headache
Thyroid tumors
Aspartame
50
Headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting,
thrombocytopenia
Lymphomas
Neotame
2
Headache, hepatotoxic at high doses
Lower birth rate, weight loss
Sucralose
5
Diarrhea, dizziness, stomach pain
Thymus shrinkage
ADI - Annual daily intake
Anushkkaran Periyasamy. Artificial Sweeteners
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Vol.6; Issue: 1; January 2019
Aspartame hydrolyzes into its
components within the gut. The increase of
these components was considered a
possibility of gastrointestinal problems.
Aspartame has been thought to cause brain
damage because one of its hydrolyzed
components is phenylalanine. Phenylalanine
plays an important role in a neurotransmitter
regulation. [3]
4. CONCLUSION
Artificial sweeteners provide some
of the health benefits. However, commonly
these sweeteners are toxic at high
concentrations in the long term. Their
consumption has been shown to cause mild
to serious side effects ranging from
headaches to life-threatening brain damages.
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******
How to cite this article: Periyasamy A. Artificial sweeteners. International Journal of Research
and Review. 2019; 6(1):120-128.
... Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than table sugar, smaller amounts are needed to create the same level of sweetness, and which are either not metabolized in the human body or do not significantly contribute to the energy content of foods and beverages. They provide the sweetness of sugar without the calories and produce a low glycaemic response [6]. ...
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The clinical characteristics and scores on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) of 192 patients undergoing a five-hour oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) for evaluation of reactive hypoglycemia were assessed. There were twice as many women as men. One hundred twenty-nine patients had spells of light-headedness, shakiness, diaphoresis, weakness, and fatigue. Hypoglycemic symptoms occurring during the test were not related to level of plasma glucose nadir or to rate of descent of glucose level. Hypoglycemia was not found when glucose levels were measured during occurrence of spontaneous symptoms in 86 patients. MMPI scores were significantly different from those of general medical patients. Both men and women evinced a conversion V profile. The five-hour OGTT seems unreliable for the diagnosis of reactive hypoglycemia, and most patients with symptoms suggestive of hypoglycemia may have emotional disturbances.
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Artificial sweeteners are added to a wide variety of food, drinks, drugs and hygiene products. Since their introduction, the mass media have reported about potential cancer risks, which has contributed to undermine the public's sense of security. It can be assumed that every citizen of Western countries uses artificial sweeteners, knowingly or not. A cancer-inducing activity of one of these substances would mean a health risk to an entire population. We performed several PubMed searches of the National Library of Medicine for articles in English about artificial sweeteners. These articles included 'first generation' sweeteners such as saccharin, cyclamate and aspartame, as well as 'new generation' sweeteners such as acesulfame-K, sucralose, alitame and neotame. Epidemiological studies in humans did not find the bladder cancer-inducing effects of saccharin and cyclamate that had been reported from animal studies in rats. Despite some rather unscientific assumptions, there is no evidence that aspartame is carcinogenic. Case-control studies showed an elevated relative risk of 1.3 for heavy artificial sweetener use (no specific substances specified) of >1.7 g/day. For new generation sweeteners, it is too early to establish any epidemiological evidence about possible carcinogenic risks. As many artificial sweeteners are combined in today's products, the carcinogenic risk of a single substance is difficult to assess. However, according to the current literature, the possible risk of artificial sweeteners to induce cancer seems to be negligible.
Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry
  • Von G W Rymonlipinski
  • Sweeteners
Von RymonLipinski. G. W. Sweeteners. Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. 2000;35(1):543-564.