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.

What are artificial sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners, also called sugar substitutes, are created ingredients added to sweeten or enhance food and beverage products. These sweeteners 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:

  • Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K)
  • Advantame
  • Aspartame
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose

You can find these ingredients in many products such as soda and baked goods, and as packets you can add to beverages or use in your cooking.

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 you to calculate your safe consumption level.

Do artificial ingredients negatively impact 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.

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