As people increasingly avoid sugar, alternative sweeteners have become more popular.
One popular sweetener is monk fruit sweetener, also called monk fruit extract.
Monk fruit sweetener has been around for decades but has recently grown in popularity since it’s become more readily available.
It’s natural, contains zero calories and is 100–250 times sweeter than sugar. It is also thought to have antioxidant properties.
This article tells you everything you need to know about monk fruit sweetener.
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What is monk fruit sweetener?
Monk fruit sweetener is extracted from monk fruit.
The monk fruit is also known as luo han guo or “Buddha fruit.” It’s a small, round fruit grown in Southeast Asia.
This fruit has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) didn't approve its use as a sweetener until 2010.
The sweetener is created by removing the seeds and skin of the fruit and crushing it to collect the juice, which is then dried into a concentrated powder.
Monk fruit contains natural sugars, mainly fructose and glucose.
However, unlike in most fruits, the natural sugars in monk fruit aren’t responsible for its sweetness. Instead, it gets its intense sweetness from unique antioxidants called mogrosides.
During processing, mogrosides are separated from the fresh-pressed juice. Therefore, monk fruit sweetener does not contain fructose or glucose.
Because this extract may be 100–250 times sweeter than table sugar, many manufacturers mix monk fruit sweetener with other natural products, such as inulin or erythritol, to reduce the intensity of the sweetness.
Monk fruit extract is now used as a standalone sweetener, an ingredient in food and drinks, a flavor enhancer, and a component of sweetener blends (1Trusted Source).
Effect on weight management
Monk fruit sweetener has been claimed to aid weight loss.
Since it contains zero calories, many people suggest that it can reduce your total calorie intake. Nevertheless, it’s relatively new to the market, and no studies have assessed its effects on weight.
Studies report that replacing regular-calorie sweeteners with low-calorie versions can result in modest weight loss of less than 2 pounds (0.9 kg) (2Trusted Source).
One review found that people who consumed low-calorie sweeteners and drinks also tended to consume less added fat, sugar, alcohol, and other sources of empty calories (3Trusted Source).
Other potential health benefits
A specific type of mogroside called mogroside V is the main component of monk fruit sweetener.
It comprises more than 30% of the product and is responsible for its sweetness.
Studies show that the mogrosides have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
For these reasons, they may offer health benefits.
Mogroside extracts have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as they inhibit certain harmful molecules and help prevent damage to your DNA (5Trusted Source).
That said, no human studies have confirmed these benefits (6Trusted Source).
Since monk fruit sweetener has zero calories or carbs, it will not raise blood sugar levels. Therefore, it may be a good option for people with diabetes.
Studies in mice with diabetes suggest that monk fruit extract may even reduce blood sugar levels. Mice given the extract experienced lower oxidative stress and blood sugar levels, as well as increased HDL (good) cholesterol (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).
Some of these benefits may be explained by the mogrosides’ ability to stimulate insulin secretion in insulin cells (13Trusted Source).
However, as this extract is often mixed with other sweeteners, you should carefully examine product labels before making a purchase.
More research is needed
Although mogroside extracts from monk fruit may have health benefits, more research is needed.
To date, studies have used high doses of monk fruit extract that are much more concentrated than what you’re likely to encounter with a sweetener.
It’s not clear what dosage you would need to experience any of these health benefits.
Is it safe?
Monk fruit sweetener is relatively new to the market, as the FDA only recognized it as generally safe in 2010.
Unlike other low-calorie sweeteners, monk fruit extract doesn’t have many studies examining its effects.
However, this doesn’t mean that it’s harmful.
Monk fruit has been used as a food for hundreds of years, and there have been no reported side effects from eating the sweetener.
The bottom line
As the name implies, monk fruit sweetener is derived from the juice of monk fruit.
Although more research is needed, it appears to be a safe and healthy sugar alternative.
It’s naturally derived, calorie-free, and may even provide health benefits.
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