Dr. Almond stands for quality and taste. High-quality raw materials, selected and tested with care, have been processed into baking mixes according to carefully developed recipes that contain (almost) exclusively natural ingredients. But only almost. However, we’ve made an exception for one sole ingredient: we use both sodium cyclamate and sodium saccharin as artificial sweeteners for our sweet products.
We have frequently been asked by our customers (in a sometimes more, sometimes less friendly way) why we do such a thing and why we couldn’t just use a natural sweetener instead.
Quality criteria for our products
We’ve specified 3 criteria as a standard for our product development work that have to be met by any newly developed product:
- best quality
- perfect taste and pleasant texture
- easy to prepare
Firstly, the term ’quality’ does not only relate to the quality of each single raw material in terms of food safety, but also encompasses its safety to human health: we do NOT use ANY raw materials before they are subjected to appropriate checks to verify their safety!
Before our first sweetened baking mix came on the scene, we had dealt exhaustively with the topic of sweeteners. This not only entailed hundreds of tests to get the perfect taste, but also a thorough research of studies and literature relating to various sweeteners.
Speaking of research and evaluation of studies, it needs to be said that we, the founders, product developers and producers at Dr. Almond (Dr. Almond Team), are two PhD chemists who enjoy many years of experience in research work carried out at universities and big industries. It is no exaggeration to say that the evaluation and analysis of scientific studies is our area of expertise.
The result of our research
What we discovered turned out to be somewhat surprising – not to say almost shocking!
It’s simply incredible how many of those terrifying myths are still widespread when it comes to artificial sweeteners.
Before we started our research, we’ve already ’heard’ quite a bit about the subject, what means, we picked up some statements ‘so just alongside’ – above all negative ones. As a consequence, we analyzed and evaluated research literature with a critical eye.
And what really struck us in the first place: the lack of any differentiation between the individual sweetening agents. ‘Artificial sweeteners’ seemed to be used as an all-inclusive expression for a group of substances that are apparently similar (in the sense of equally bad) to any other kind of sweeteners.
But this is not the case – the different sweetening agents could not be more different!
That doesn’t fall into the category of ’comparing apples and oranges’ (both fruit), that would be like ‘comparing apples and cars’. From a chemical standpoint, ALL today’s approved artificial sweeteners belong to completely different groups of substances (families).
The only thing they have in common: they give a sweet taste in the mouth! By the way, this is what both artificial sweeteners and natural sweeteners have in common …
And even in this respect, there is a world of difference: while e.g. cyclamate is only approx. 35 times as sweet as sugar, saccharin is 300 times sweeter.
This is why you can safely ignore any ’scientific’ studies’ that claim to have found a link between ‘artificial sweeteners’ in general and some kind of desease.
If need be, it could be argued that there is an association between an appetizing effect and a ’sweet’ taste, but the same would hold true both for artificial and natural sweeteners.
A meaningful evaluation of a sweetening agent requires to take a precise look at the facts and available data sheets of EACH INDIVIDUAL substance. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.
After extensive research and numerous baking tests we finally found a combination of sodium cyclamate and sodium saccharin and a combination of sodium saccharin and acesulfame-K to be the perfect sweetener solution for our products.
There is no doubt about the health safety of these sweetening agents, which, by the way, also fully convinced our taste buds.
Of course, we’ve also taken a closer look at ’natural’ sweetening agents such as stevia, luo han guo, erythritol and xylitol. We enclosed ’natural’ in double quotes for good reason: these are not just products that have more or less ’fallen from trees and landed directly in your kitchen’. In order to isolate the substance responsible for the sweet taste from the plant, numerous high-tech processing steps have to be carried out. This all depends on the method, processing aids, solvents and catalysts used, which, if of poor quality, may very well remain in the final product.
Steviol glycoside e.g. has a specific CAS number (= Chemical Abstracts Service, an international standard identification system for chemical substances). Is that somewhat shocking? Not at all! We have absolutely nothing against stevia (provided that it is of good quality!) – however, we think that stevia cannot be universally used when it comes to taste. Steviol glycoside has a licorice-like aftertaste, and this cannot be brushed away. This may taste delicious in a herbal infusion – but it’s not necessarily desirable in a vanilla muffin.
Xylitol is out of the question for 3 reasons:
1.) its relatively low digestive tolerance (= diarrhea and stomach ache)
2.) the fact that xylitol metabolism is only partly independent of insulin and does have a certain energy value (= calories)
3.) its high toxicity for dogs
In some people, the digestive tolerance can be enhanced by slowly accustoming to this sweetener over time. While ’xylitol newcomers’ very often suffer from bowel issues after having eaten just half a muffin sweetened with xylitol, longtime eaters can tolerate a bit more over the years without getting into trouble. We believe that this unpleasant period of adaption is absolutely uncomfortable – in particular as the process of getting used to xylitol does not work for everyone equally well. Our products are supposed to be well tolerated by EVERYONE – right from the start.
Even though xylitol with its glycemic index of approx.11 has a comparatively small impact on the insulin level and its food energy value of 240 kcal / 100g is still 40% below the energy value of retail sugar – why should we use this agent when there are alternative products with a glycemic index and a food energy value of around 0?
Toxicity for dogs is also a key factor. Since only 3 – 4g xylitol per kilogram of body weight can be fatal for dogs, NO responsible dog owner should – in our opinion – keep any xylitol-sweetened products in the house! A low-carb muffin pilfered off a kitchen counter is deadly for a 10-kilo heavy terrier! No matter how clever the ways you hide the sweets and treats – you yourself know best how quickly your four-legged darling would finally find them some day. Xylitol rapidly increases the level of insulin in dogs, which causes severe hypoglycemia with an often fatal outcome. Here again our overriding principle is: our products should be suitable for EVERYONE – including dog owners!
To point it out again: xylitol is in itself and in general harmless for human health, but has some drawbacks. For those who tolerate it well and find it tasty and, on top of it, don’t own a dog – go for it! However, we don’t consider it to be a perfect ingredient in our products and recipes for the above reasons.
Erythritol has amazing macros, which are practically zero. Zero net carbs, zero calories. But here, too, we are not 100% convinced when it comes to taste, at least, not in that way that we would use erythritol as our sole sweetening agent. Sensitive bellies will also respond with bloating and diarrhea and in addition, a cooling effect and a somehow pungent odor is clearly perceptible in large doses. At a low dosage, that is no problem at all – this is why we also combine saccharine and cyclamate and use erythritol as a ‘substrate’ in our low-carb sweeteners.
By the way, erythritol has been harshly criticized recently based on the results of a brand-new study. However, there’s no need to panic: this study has as much validity as a headline in the German tabloid ‘BILD’. Please find our assessment on this study here: New study – does erythritol make you fat (german)
We strive to offer you the best!
But back to Dr. Almond: We strive to get the most out of our products! We want our products not only to taste good but to be healthy AS WELL.
We will not allow our products to taste less good or be harder to digest simply because the better alternative probably has a bad reputation. Instead, we’d rather enlighten you on this matter!
Here, we don’t compromise – even if one or the other would ’feel more comfortable’ with a sweetener alleged to be ’natual’, simply because they have been given false and poor information.
‘Feel more comfortable’ is meant as a consequence of the MEDIA PANIC induced by untrustworthy sources or because of the belief that a natural substance is automatically much healthier for us than an artificial one.
But just face the facts: some of the most dangerous toxins originate from nature (ricin for example, which has already been used as bioweapon!).
Both natural and artificial substances can be dangerous for human beings – or not, as the case may be! This needs to be clarified individually for EACH substance.
We summarized our research findings on the potential health effects of sweetening agents for you here: