Making Sugar-Free Sugar Syrup

This is my recipe for sugar syrup (without the sugar) which I use for the odd cocktail and for my morning coffee. Very easy to make and no blood sugar spikes.

The Inspiration

The inspiration for making it came from this great book “Better Cocktails Through Chemistry”. Written by Scott Reba, who has Type 1 Diabetes, it contains various recipes for cocktail mixers and cocktails without the sugar hit, including sugar syrup (sometimes called Simple Syrup), a mainstay of any cocktail bar.

In Scott’s case he uses Splenda which works really well. The main sweetening agent in Splenda is sucralose, a modified sugar which is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and not recognised by the body as food so it never gets converted into blood glucose. Requiring such a small amount to give the same sweetness kick as real sugar, it also does not have the same “intestinal effects” as other modified sugar sweeteners. However, Splenda uses bulking agents so it measures the same by volume as real sugar. Those bulking agents are dextrose and maltodextrin which can spike blood sugars.

Using Pure Sucralose

While I originally used Splenda to make the sugar syrup, when it became difficult to buy in bulk from my local supermarket, I went online and found I could buy pure sucralose. This also eliminated the dextrose/maltodextrin sugar spike issue. This is the packet I bought on Amazon.

This is the 100g bag which is very roughly equivalent to 100 cups of sugar so I doubt I will be buying another for quite a while.

The history of sucralose is quite interesting in that is was discovered by accident in 1976 when a couple of chemists were exploring the properties of modified sugar molecules. When told to “test” one particular compound that had been created, the chemist thought he had been told to “taste” the compound, discovering its sweetness and thus sucralose was born.

While deemed safe by food administration bodies across the world, here is a good summary of the studies. In short there is no finding in humans to suggest there is a problem and, in terms of toxicity, you would need to consume pretty much the entire packet in one sitting to get there. Then again, eating 100 cups of sugar in one sitting probably would not do you too many favours either.

How To Make It

The standard recipe for simple syrup is a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water by volume e.g. 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water. For cocktails a 2:1 ratio is sometimes used. Work out how sweet for want your syrup and use the ratio that works. For sugar and Splenda the ratio is simple given Splenda measures the same as sugar by volume. For pure sucralose, without the bulking agent, things are different.

Here is what you will need to make your sugar-free sugar syrup.

Of course, we have the packet of sucralose. We also have a pump bottle for the final product and, in my case, a 1/8 teaspoon. Ideally it would be 1/16 but these can be quite tricky to find.

Why the small teaspoon? Because, as mentioned, sucralose is really, really sweet. The exact magnitude of sweetness varies in the literature so my recommendation is to see what works for you. Roughly speaking, one cup of sugar is somewhere between 1/16 teaspoon and 1/8 teaspoon of sucralose. Experiment and good luck 🙂

Once you have your 1 cup of water and (1 cup of sugar or 1 cup of Splenda or 1/16-1/8 tsp of sucralose), all you do is put them in a pot on the stove, heat the liquid until the sweetener has dissolved and you are done. Let is cool and fill your pump bottle.

For sugar, heating the water is necessary for dissolving, especially for sweeter syrup ratios but for Splenda (where the bulking agent dissolves easily) and for sucralose (where there is simply not that much to dissolve) it is less necessary. For sucralose you could probably combine in the pump bottle and agitate for the same result.

A word of warning, because sucralose powder is so fine and so sweet, it will get on your fingers and they will taste sweet for at least a few hours after making this. Also, you are welcome to try other sweeteners like stevia/erythritol mixtures but my experience is they do not dissolve well into the water, form large crystals and impart little sweetness to the syrup. A pretty result with large crystals but useless for sweetening coffee.

The End Result and Variations

Once dissolved and poured into the pump bottle you are good to go. For me, the 1/8 tsp of sucralose to 1 cup of water gave a pump of syrup which was slightly sweeter than a tsp of sugar but for coffee and cocktails it worked well enough.

Once you have mastered sugar syrup, a range of options open up thanks to the flavourings available in the shops. Using this as a base, you could add banana or strawberry flavouring for milkshakes, or create a vanilla syrup for coffee. Given the sheer volume of syrup that can be created from a 50 or 100g packet of sucralose you have a lot of opportunity to explore.

ATTD 2021: Obesity Does Not Cause Type 2 Diabetes

ATTD 2021 was held 2-5 June, 2021 and, thanks to dedoc, I had the privilege to attend and live tweet the presentations. This post is not a distillation but a summary of one particular presentation by Dr. Walter Pories.

Dr. Pories pioneered gastric bypass surgery and was the first to document the surgery leading to the remission of Type 2 diabetes. He is a world leader on the interplay of the surgery and its effects on Type 2 Diabetes and he is of the firm opinion that, while the procedure does indeed put Type 2 diabetes in remission, it is not a result of the associated weight loss. Let me review what he presented.

Firstly, Dr. Pories talked about how he developed the modern gastric bypass procedure in North Carolina in the 1980s.

With the surgical procedure going well and developing a good reputation for reversing severe obesity, a Dr. Jose Caro requested one of his patients be considered for the surgery even though she had poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes despite using insulin to try and control it.

Dr Pories agreed to do the surgery but, the mystery was, a few days after surgery the patient had normal glucose levels and no longer needed insulin. The same thing happened with other Type 2 patients referred by Dr. Caro.

Neither Dr. Pories or Dr. Caro could explain it and blamed each other for poor diagnostics. For the fifth patient who underwent the procedure Dr. Pories showed how the blood glucose levels and insulin requirements progressed after surgery.

A patient whose blood glucose was 495 mg/dl (27.5 mmol/L) before surgery despite being given 90 units of insulin, within a week, the patient no longer required insulin with measured blood glucose within the standard range.

Over 9 years, Dr. Pories saw similar results with a remission rate of 83%.

It was consistently shown that Type 2 patients had a significant reduction in HbA1c and in the requirement for medication. The weight loss associated with the surgery could not explain it because weight loss simply did not happen that quickly. Moreover, other metabolic issues were shown to be reduced through the surgery.

To solve the mystery, Dr. Pories looked at other gastric surgeries and considered their remission rates. The conclusion was the more the gut was bypassed, the better the results. Dr. Pories formulated a hypothesis that the cause of Type 2 could be bad signalling from the gut with the surgery effectively turning the bad signal off.

Another piece in the puzzle came from studying the lactate levels of people with Type 2 diabetes which were shown to be higher. Dr. Pories characterised lactate as the black smoke seen coming from a poorly tuned engine. It meant the glucose was not being metabolised correctly under the action of insulin.

It was shown that, after surgery, the lactate issue went away suggesting whatever was fixing the Type 2 diabetes was also fixing the broken metabolism.

Looking at the glucose processing cycle (Cori cycle) more carefully it suggested that the gut signal hindered the glucose processing and instead of 36 ATP units (the energy “currency” of cells) being produced, only 4 were being produced and a lot of lactate.

Dr. Pories talked about evidence from Romania comparing cell response to blood taken before and after gastric surgery which confirms a difference in the blood and therefore potentially a difference in the chemical signals it contains. He then presented his conclusions.

Does obesity cause Type 2 diabetes? Whatever the cause of Type 2, obesity simply does not make sense because Type 2 goes into remission under gastric surgery before the fat is gone and it does not explain the different rates of remission for different kinds of surgery. While eating sugary foods only worsens the problem by thrashing the broken energy cycle, it is not the cause of the disease. In other words, characterising Type 2 diabetes as a “lifestyle disease” misses the mark. It is clear that there is something fundamentally broken in the body which is usually fixed when the gut is removed from the equation.

Rather than think of obesity and a person’s desire for high energy foods as the cause of their Type 2 diabetes, see it as a symptom of someone who has a broken energy production engine leading to excess production of body fat and a lack of energy for the cells causing the body to crave high energy foods to compensate which, unfortunately, only makes the problem worse.

People with Type 2 diabetes deserve our respect rather than our judgement and an understanding there is far more going on with them than a lack of exercise and poor food choices.