Sweetener – Artificial Sweeteners

In this series, we’re exploring sweeteners, from artificial to natural to calorie-free, sweeteners are in the foods and beverages we consume. In this post, we focus on common artificial sweeteners.

Updated October 16, 2023

What are artificial sweeteners? 

Artificial sweeteners, also called sugar substitutes, are created ingredients added to sweeten or enhance food and beverage products. These sweeteners are referred to as “high-intensity” because it takes much less artificial sweetener to achieve the same sweetness level as traditional sugar.
These sweeteners typically add very few, if any, calories to the products and generally do not contribute to blood sugar spikes, making them a safer alternative for people with medical conditions such as diabetes.
Artificial sweeteners are found in many food and beverage products marketed as “diet” or “reduced-calorie.” Often, the sugar traditionally found in these products is replaced with a no or low-calorie artificial sweetener to maintain flavor while reducing the total calories consumed.

What are common artificial sweeteners?

There are different types of artificial sweeteners; below are the six most common FDA-approved artificial sweeteners on the market: Subscribe for weekly updates_ go.msu.edu/cris-connect.png
  • Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K)
  • Advantame
  • Aspartame
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose

Where can I find artificial sweeteners?

We find artificial sweeteners in many products, such as soda pop and baked goods. We also see it packaged in packets to add to beverages or use when we’re cooking.

Do artificial sweeteners adversely impact my health?

Artificial ingredients are not inherently bad, just as natural ingredients are not inherently good (no one wants to consume all-natural cyanide!). As with all ingredients, the amount someone consumes leads to health impacts.
For most individuals, artificial sweeteners are safe and have undergone intense scrutiny as a food additive by the U.S. FDA before receiving approval.
However, there are some individuals with the rare genetic condition phenylketonuria (PKU) who are unable to process components of aspartame. Those individuals should not consume products containing aspartame.

What about the report saying the artificial sweetener aspartame was “possibly carcinogenic”?

The report released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) complied numerous studies and maintained that the current acceptable daily intake of 40 mg/kg bw/day remains safe
Read more about the report and a deeper analysis of the data: https://go.msu.edu/sjC5.

Can artificial sweeteners be toxic?

Everything can be toxic, including water. It’s important to keep in mind that everything we consume should be done in moderation.
When it comes to calculating safety and toxicity, researchers base the safety level on the weight of the person consuming the ingredient. This means a child weighing 50 lbs. will have a different safety consumption level than an adult weighing 150 lbs.
The FDA created a simple chart that allows us to calculate our safe consumption of artificial sweetener levels based on our individual needs.

The good news.

Artificial sweeteners have been the subject of scrutiny and debate for years, but the scientific consensus strongly supports their safety when consumed within recommended limits.
When used responsibly, artificial sweeteners can be part of a balanced approach to managing sugar intake and promoting overall health.

If you have any questions about foods and ingredients, please send us an email or submit your idea to us at go.msu.edu/cris-idea.

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