What Is the Sweetest Compound?

How Sweet Are Different Sweeteners?

Sugar is sweet, but several chemicals are sweeter!
Sugar is sweet, but several chemicals are sweeter!. Maximilian Stock Ltd. / Getty Images

Sugar is sweet, but it's not the sweetest chemical compound. Here's a comparison of sweetness using a ranking system in which sucrose (table sugar) is defined as having a sweetness of '1'. Values lower than '1' indicate the compound is not as sweet as table sugar, while values greater than '1' mean the compound is sweeter than table sugar:

  • D-Glucose (natural sugar produced by plants) - 0.46

     

  • Lactose (natural sugar found in milk) - 0.68

     

  • D-Fructose (a natural fruit sugar) - 0.84

     

  • Sucrose - 1

     

  • Cyclamate (usually sodium or calcium salts of cyclohexanesulfamic acid) - 30

     

  • Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) - 200

     

  • Saccharin (benzosulfamide) - 300

     

  • Sucralose (Splenda, a sucrose molecule in which three of the -OH groups have been replaced by chlorine atoms) - 650

     

  • Alitame (Aclame, a sweetener formed from the amino acids L-aspartic acid and D-alanine) - 2,000

     

  • Thaumatin (natural protein isolated from the katemfe fruit of western Africa) - 3,000

     

  • Carrelame (guanidine sweetener) - 160,000

     

  • Bernardame (guanidine sweetener) - 200,000

     

  • Sucrononate (guanidine sweetener) - 200,000

     

  • Lugduname (guanidine sweetener) - 220,000

     

These are approximate values (from Sci.chem Faq). Other publications may provide different values. The guanidine sweeteners are not expected to be used in foods. Also, sweetness is only aspect of a compound's taste and potential use as a sweetener.

These compounds exhibit different levels of toxicity, aftertaste, bitterness, etc.

Also note the list only contains pure compounds. There are other, more complex substances that are sweeter than sugar. Examples include honey and stevia extract. There are also sweet inorganic compounds, such as lead(II) acetate (sugar of lead) and beryllium chloride.

Many synthetic organic compounds are sweet, but are toxic. These compounds include chloroform, ethylene glycol, and nitrobenzene.