Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe?

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Humans naturally have an appetite for sugary things. However, consuming an excessive amount will amount to surplus calories resulting in weight gain.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The average American eats the equivalent of 20 teaspoons of sugar a day. Most of the intake is from corn sweeteners, used heavily in sodas and other sweetened drinks. The remainder is from sucrose (table sugar), and a small amount comes from other sweeteners, such as honey and molasses.

Humans naturally have an appetite for sugary things. However, consuming an excessive amount will amount to surplus calories resulting in weight gain.

Sugar substitutes, are many times sweeter than sugar. Therefore it requires only small amounts to create the same sweetness resulting in a negligible calorie count.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved four sugar substitutes for use in a variety of foods:

  • Saccharin
  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame-K
  • Sucralose

Saccharin is sold under trade names such as Sweet ‘n Low and is used widely in fountain sodas. Its stability at high temperatures makes it an option for sweetening baked goods, unlike aspartame, which degrades when heated. As far back as 1911 federal scientists were concerned about the safety of saccharin. “We know for certain that it causes cancer in animals,” says Andrew Laumbach, Ph.D., consumer safety officer in FDA’s Office of Premarket Approval. . He acknowledges, however, that animal studies do not always predict the behavior of a substance in the human body. The National Cancer Institute says that epidemiological studies do not provide clear evidence of a link to human cancer.

Aspartame has received bad press in recent years as individuals have attempted to link the sweetener to brain tumors and other serious disorders. But FDA stands behind its original approval of aspartame, and subsequent evaluations have shown that the product is safe.

Acesulfame Potassium also called Sunett was first approved in 1988 as a tabletop sweetener, and is now approved for products such as baked goods, frozen desserts, candies, and, most recently, beverages. More than 90 studies verify the sweetener’s safety.

Sucralose also known by its trade name, Splenda is used in products such as baked goods, nonalcoholic beverages, chewing gum, frozen dairy desserts, fruit juices, and gelatins. Earlier this year, FDA amended its regulation to allow sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener for all foods. Sucralose tastes like sugar because it is made from table sugar. But it cannot be digested, so it adds no calories to food. Because sucralose is so much sweeter than sugar, it is bulked up with maltodextrin, a starchy powder, so it will measure more like sugar. Numerous studies have shown that sucralose does not affect blood glucose levels, making it an option for diabetics.

Though sugar substitutes have a long history of controversy, the Calorie Control Council says Americans are continually searching for good-tasting, low-calorie products as part of a healthy lifestyle. Market surveys show that calorie-conscious consumers want more low-calorie foods and beverages. And though artificially sweetened products are not magic foods that will melt pounds away, they can be, experts say, a helpful part of an overall weight control program that includes exercise and other dietary factors.


To read the full article written by John Henkel, a staff writer for FDA Consumer, please visit:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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