Part 1 of this article [July 15 DC] reviewed reduced-calorie sweeteners: sugar alcohols. Part 2 focuses on those sweetening agents that are totally or virtually calorie-free.
Because the obesity epidemic continues to rise, sweeteners that are highly processed, completely artificial, or synthetic derivatives of natural substances will be consumed worldwide at an increasing rate.
*The amount used as a sweetener is much more than what is allowed for flavoring. **In the U.S., Stevia is approved as a dietary supplement and can be purchased in bulk. ***Not pure sucralose. Small amounts of maltodextrin and dextrose are added.
Name (Brand Name)
Sweetness (Relative to Sugar)
Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet 1)
Approved in 90 countries, including the U.S.
Synthetic chemical that the body is unable to metabolize
Most studies indicate safety. A few animal studies have suggested an increased rate of cancer.
Approved in Australia, New Zealand, China, and Mexico
Synthetic derivative of L-aspartic acid andD-alanine
Petition for U.S. approval is pending. 1.4 calories per gram; so sweet that only mg amounts are needed.
Aspartame (Equal and Nutrisweet)
Approved in over 100 countries, including the U.S.
Derivative of free-form amino acids and phenylalanine
Cancer and neurologic disease charges are not supported epidemiologically. Some users report headaches and/or mood and mental changes. FDA recommends no more than 50 mg/kg/bw/day.
Approved in over 50 countries, banned in the United States
Synthetic chemical; Salt of cyclamic acid
Banned in 1970 due to animal studies showing it caused cancer. Petition to be reapproved in the U.S. is pending.
Approved in Europe
Synthetic derivatives of citrus bioflavonoid
A group of compounds approved in the U.S. for flavoring, but not to sweeten.*
Approved in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand
Derivative of a dipeptide consisting of phenylalanine and aspartic acid
Opponents state it is more toxic than Aspartame and do not trust the studies or the FDA's claims that it is safe for human consumption.
Saccharin (Sweet N' Low)
Approved in over 100 nations, including the U.S.
Synthetic chemical derived from coal tar
Almost banned in the United States in 1977 based on increased cancer rates in animal studies. Numerous epidemiological studies have not shown higher cancer rates, until a recent Natural Cancer Institute study, in which heavy users (6+ servings a day) had a slightly increased rate of bladder cancer.
Approved in 10 nations, including Japan and much of South America; not approved in the United States**
A leaf extract from a shrub native to South America, in the chrysanthemum family
Stevioside, the main active ingredient, is not approved as a food additive or sweetener in the United States. Small amounts have been used safely for many years in Japan. Large amounts have caused energy and reproductive problems in animal studies.
Approved in over 40 countries, including all of North America
Sucrose bound with 3 chlorine atoms in place of 3 hydroxyl groups
The chlorine prevents metabolism or digestion. FDA states it is safe for all groups, including pregnant and nursing women, and children. Opponents contend that long-term human studies do not exist.
Nutritional conservatives and liberals are in general agreement that artificial sweeteners are not "good for you." The argument heats up when discussing how bad or how harmful these products may be. Occasional use of small amounts is not problematic for most people. Where we run into trouble is in our definition of "small amounts."
A case in point is the debate involving sucralose and Stevia. In small amounts, Stevia has been safely used in Japan for many years, with no apparent ill effects. However, in animal studies using larger amounts, complications such as energy suppression and reproductive problems have occurred, so much so that the FDA does not yet feel Stevia is a safe product for purposes of sweetening. Conversely, sucralose appears quite safe in a number of studies and is FDA-approved. However, opponents question the neutrality of the data and state that none of the more than 100 studies cited by proponents was long-term on humans. What is implied but unspoken is that both sides in the sweetener debate are worried about how many people are incapable of moderation, consciously or unconsciously. (Conscious = they add it to everything; unconscious = industry adds it to everything.)
The biggest problem I see with both artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols (discussed in part 1) is not their side-effects from overconsumption, but how they affect our food choices. For those on low-carbohydrate diets, as the food industry increases the use of these products, (individually and most commonly, in combinations), people will be able to eat more calories before they reach their carbohydrate limit. And although "having your cake (or bacon) and eating it, too" is a common theme among best-selling diet book authors, weight loss without sacrifice is almost impossible. (Sacrifice = fewer calories in and/or more calories out.)
Ensminger AH, Konlande JE, Robson JRK. Encyclopedia of Foods and Nutrition. Boca Raton, FL: CRS Press. 1995.
Rowett CA. Smithsonian revisits Remsen-Fahlberg debate. The Gazette 1994;23(40). Johns Hopkins University.
G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN Brea, California
www.andersEnchiro.comClick here for more information about G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN.