As millions of Americans cut down on carbohydrates and sugar, the sales of artificial sweeteners have been booming! Some people worry about artificial sweeteners possibly because they are called artificial. Did you ever wonder whats in them? Should you? These sugar substitutes exist in a greater array than ever, including newcomers sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame K (Sweet and Safe), neotame (Sunett) and stevia. In addition, there are the old, familiar aspartame (Equal), saccharin (Sweet N Low) and the sugar alcohols (xylitol). All of them have undergone life-span laboratory testing in rats and short-term human studies for toxicity, metabolism, reproductive safety and pharmokenetic usage.

These non-nutritive sweeteners provide intense sweetening power, extremely low calories, no energy and no effect on your insulin levels. In 1961, the Joint Committee on Food Additives introduced a formula known as the Adequate Daily Intake (ADI). This is still currently used to determine the safety consumption of artificial sweeteners that would cause no adverse effect, if consumed on a daily basis for a lifetime. So before you tear open that little packet of sweetener and stir it into your coffee or tea, let the debate begin!


What Is Sucralose?

Sucralose, also known as Splenda, is three chlorine molecules (yeah chlorine) that replace three hydroxyl groups on the sugar molecule. It passes through the body unabsorbed during digestion and is excreted in urine. Its 600 times sweeter than table sugar yet contains no calories. The FDA approved it as a general-purpose sweetener in 1999. The little yellow packets carry the tagline made from sugar so it tastes like sugar. Some consumers and health professionals have interpreted this to mean sucralose is less of a chemical than other artificial sweeteners. Sucralose has a long shelf-life and does not break down in high heat. Its used in products from cereal to yogurt that uses high heat to manufacture. The success of sucralose has left its rivals struggling. It currently enjoys 48% of the market share. The ADI for sucralose is five milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.


What Is Aspartame?

Aspartame, also known as Equal, is a nifty chemical combination of aspartic acid, methanol and phenylalanine. Its 200 times sweeter than table sugar and contains four calories per gram. The FDA approved it as a general-purpose sweetener in 1981, and it does have a list of reported side effects. Aspartic acid and methanol occur naturally in tomato juice and skim milk at fairly high rates. When released at 68° F, aspartame does break down to diketopiperzine and loses stability for baking. Additionally, it does have a warning label for phenylketonurics (PKU), individuals with a rare genetic condition usually diagnosed at birth. These individuals lack the ability to process one of the amino acids in aspartame. For everyone else, its safe, according to exhaustive research and reviews by the FDA, the World Health Organization and other authorities. Rumors have run wild that aspartame causes headaches, dizziness, brain tumors and almost every disease in the book, but theres FDA data to back these unsubstantiated claims. Its used in products worldwide and currently has 24% of the market share. The ADI for aspartame is 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, which is substantially higher than most other sweeteners.


What Is Saccharin?

Saccharin, also known as Sweet N Low, is a combination of sodium, nitrogen and a hydrogen dioxide molecule thats 300 times sweeter than table sugar and contains no calories. Its extremely high-heat stable and suitable for use in cooking and baking. Similar to sucralose, it passes through the body unabsorbed during digestion and is excreted in urine. Saccharin has been used to sweeten foods and beverages since 1900 and has been approval by the FDA since 1970. In 1977, a ban was put on saccharin based upon animal research that suggested it was a weak bladder carcinogen. In the study, researchers administered unrealistically high doses of saccharin, equivalent to 700 cans of soft drinks or 10,000 tablets per day, every day, for a lifetime. The largest human study in the United States showed no overall association between saccharin consumption and cancer. In addition, the current research indicates the mechanism that causes cancer when high levels of saccharin are consumed is unique to male rats and not relevant to humans. The FDA lifted the ban in 2002, as saccharin is used in numerous products worldwide. The ADI for saccharin is 15 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.


What Is Stevia?

Stevia is an herb-derived sugar substitute that is widely used in South America and Japan, but the FDA is not convinced of its safety. Its 300 times sweeter than sugar and has a licorice-type aftertaste. Additionally, stevia contains no calories and is unabsorbed by the body. It is freely used by diabetics and has no effects on blood glucose. In the 1980s, it gained popularity as an herbal tea sweetener. Unlike other artificial products, it is naturally grown in plant form. In 1986, the FDA banned it as an unsafe food additive, but under the dietary supplement act, it is sold as a supplement in packet form. It cant be labeled as a sweetener or added to commercially processed foods in the United States, Canada or Europe. There are several health claims and possible concerns regarding potential carcinogenic properties, fertility issues and carbohydrate metabolism with long-term use. Currently, there is insufficient data to set tolerable upper limits and an ADI requirement. There is a tremendous amount of information on websites that promotes stevia as the sweetener of the future, but as always, the choice is ours. Just remember that a teaspoon of sugar still contains only 16 calories and has been around long before us!


What Is Acesulfame K?

Acesulfame potassium, also known as acesulfame K or just Ace-K, is a calorie-free sweetener used in more than 5,000 foods, beverages and pharmaceutical products in over 100 countries around the world. This high-intensity sweetener is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar. Acesulfame potassium is a bulking agent which adds texture and flavor to foods and helps health- and weight-conscious consumers who are looking to reduce unnecessary calories in foods and beverages. Cutting calories does not necessarily mean compromising taste. For most of us, the most desirable sweet taste is that of sugar, and low-calorie foods and beverages often contain blends of sweeteners to obtain a more sugar-like sweetness. Thus, acesulfame potassium is frequently found in combination with other non-caloric or caloric sweeteners. In addition, there is a fairly high quantity of it in most sugarless gums and Jell-O. As a calorie-free sweetener, acesulfame potassium does not promote tooth decay and is also suitable for people with diabetes. In the past 30 to 40 years, more than 90 studies have been conducted on the safety of acesulfame potassium. They have consistently shown that this sweetener is safe and suitable for human consumption. Discovered in 1967 by a scientist in Frankfurt, Germany, it has been used in food and beverages since 1983. Acesulfame K is sold commercially as Sunette or Sweet One and was approved by the FDA in 1988 as a sugar substitute in packet or tablet form for chewing gum, dry mixes for beverages, instant coffee and tea, gelatin desserts, puddings and non-dairy creamers. Numerous manufacturers have asked the FDA to approve acesulfame K for soft drinks and baked goods.

In closure, its probably best to assume that the general public is waiting for an artificial sweetener that is unquestionably safe. Compared to aspartame and saccharin, which are afflicted with their own safety concerns, acesulfame K is probably no different, even though they all have gone through countless testing procedures. These tests indicate that the additives could be carcinogenic in nature to laboratory animals, which means it may increase cancer risks in humans. In 1987, numerous agencies against the use of asulfame K urged the FDA not to approve it, but it was ignored. After the FDA gave the chemical its blessing, the Center for Science in the Public Interest urged that it be banned. To date, the FDA hasn't yet ruled on that request. Perhaps, and only perhaps, the best remedy is to use not abuse.

Scott Josephson, MS, is the Director of Operations at Hippocrates Health Institute, a premier life-changing property in West Palm Beach, Florida. Scott is a national level conference speaker throughout the United States and Canada, a recipient of numerous awards and is frequently published covering a wide range of industry topics. In addition to several certifications, he holds a degree from the University of Miami and is on the advisory board of the American Fitness Professionals and Associates. His work portfolio includes Geraldo Rivera, Wimbledon Champion Chris Evert and athletes from the New York Giants and New York Mets. For more information, contact Scott at


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