What’s the Truth About Artificial Sweeteners?

If you love rumors and intrigue, enter the world of artificial sweeteners.

Several of them have become infamous subjects of Internet urban legends. The truth about them is far less exciting. Artificial sweeteners are well tested and well tolerated by most people, and they offer a world of sweet options to those who avoid calorie-containing sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners offer an array of sweet options for people who choose to avoid sugar. Although modest amounts of sugar are now permitted on most diabetes meal plans, sweeteners allow people with diabetes to enjoy a wider variety of foods, in larger servings.

Acesulfame K, aspartame, saccharin and sucralose are four popular calorie-free sweeteners approved for use in the United States. Below is an overview of these products.

Acesulfame K

Sold under the brand names Sweet One, Swiss Sweet and Sunett, this product is approximately 200 times sweeter than table sugar. It retains its taste when heated and can be used in baking and cooking. It is found in thousands of products, including chewing gum, powdered beverage and dessert mixes, candy, dairy products and drinks. People living in some 90 different countries consume Acesulfame K.


Sold as NutraSweet and Equal, Aspartame is one of the most carefully studied food ingredients ever. Aspartame has been the target of many Internet rumors and urban legends linking it to such diseases as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and lupus. These allegations have been examined and are absolutely false. Over 200 scientific studies have confirmed its safety, and regulatory agencies in more than 100 countries have endorsed its use.

Approved by the FDA in 1981, Aspartame is considered safe for most individuals including children and pregnant or breastfeeding women. It should not be used by those who experience allergic reactions, such as skin and breathing problems, or by people who have the rare disease phenylketonuria (PKU), as their bodies can’t break down phenylalanine, one of aspartame’s main ingredients.


Sold under the names of Sweet’N Low and Sugar Twin, in 1977, the FDA attempted to ban saccharin when studies on male rats demonstrated that it could cause cancer. Further research found that the rats themselves had a predisposition to developing cancer and the sweetener was not the cause. More than 25 years of research has shown that saccharin does not cause cancer in humans.


Known best by the brand name Splenda, this sweetener is made from sugar, a fact that has drawn some negative attention. Internet rumors state that Splenda ads confuse the public into believing that it is as natural as sugar. As with other “artificial” sweeteners, Splenda is a manufactured product. It is created by substituting three atoms of chlorine for three hydroxyl groups on the sugar molecule. Its safety has been evaluated in more than 100 studies over a 20-year period, and it is considered safe for all individuals, regardless of age.

The Sweet Choice is Yours

If you wish to take advantage of these products, the sweet choice is yours. For additional information, visit caloriecontrol.org.

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