Artificial sweeteners are substances that are used in place of sweeteners with sugar or sugar alcohols. They may also be called sugar substitutes, nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS), and noncaloric sweeteners.
Sugar substitutes can help people trying to lose weight. They provide sweetness to foods and drinks without adding extra calories.
Using artificial sweeteners in place of sugar can also help prevent dental decay and blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
All artificial sweeteners are chemically processed. They can be added to food and during preparation. You may also add them when you eat. Most diet or low-calorie food products you buy at the store are made using artificial sweeteners.
Aspartame (Equal and NutraSweet)
Saccharin (Sweet 'N Low, Sweet Twin, NectaSweet)
Stevia (Truvia, Pure Via, Sun Crystals)
Acesulfame K (Sunett and Sweet One)
Monk Fruit (Nectresse)
People often have questions about the safety and health effects of artificial sweeteners.
In 2012 the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association published a report concluded that sensible use of NNS could help lower caloric and carbohydrate intake. Further research is still needed. There is also not enough evidence at this time to determine if NNS use lead to weight loss or lower heart disease risk.
More research is also needed on the safety of artificial sweeteners. There is no clear evidence that the artificial sweeteners sold and used in the United States are linked to cancer or coronary heart disease risk in humans.
The FDA regulates all artificial sweeteners that are sold or used in prepared foods in the United States. The FDA has set an acceptable daily intake (ADI) -- the amount that can be safely eaten each day over a person's lifetime.
The artificial sweeteners aspartame, acesulfame K, saccharin, neotame, and sucralose are all FDA approved.
Aspartame is not recommended for people with phenylketonuria (PKU). Their body is unable to break down one of the amino acids used to make aspartame.
American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association Scientific Statement: Nonnutritive Sweeteners: Current use and health perspectives. Circulation. 2012;126:509-519.
Wiebe N, Padwal R,Field C, Marks S, Jacobs R, Tonelli M: A systematic review of the effect of sweeteners on glycemic response and clinically relevant outcomes. BMC Med 9:123 2011.
Johnson RJ, Appel LJ, Brands M, Howard BV, Lefevre M, Lustig RH, et al. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009;120:1011-1020.
Franz MJ, et al. 2008 American Diabetes Association Nutrition Recommendations and Guidelines. Diabetes Care. 2008;31(Suppl 1):S61-S78.
Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Despres JP, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2010;33:2477-2483.
United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2010.
Artificial sweeteners and cancer. National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet. Last reviewed August 5, 2009.
Updated by: Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, Nutritionist, University of Washington Medical Center Diabetes Care Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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