Friday, November 2, 2012

Artificial Sweeteners

The below post is a brief table of artificial sweeteners (including Stevia) with pros/cons and uses. 

Sweet’N Low--Saccharin
Information: Claimed to be 300 times sweeter than sugar and was banned in 1977 when animal testing showed rats developed bladder cancer.  The warning label was dropped in 2000.  Saccharin’s molecules come from petroleum.
Pros: Can be baked with and has 0 calories.
Cons: Has been listed since the 1980’s as an “anticipated human carcinogen”.  Smoking men who use this sweetener may be at risk if they consume large yet unspecified amounts.  No extensive research has been done in pediatrics and pregnant women/children should use sparingly.
Information: Neotame is a newer artificial sweetener that is chemically similar to aspartame.
It was approved by the FDA in 2002.
Pros: It has zero calories.  You can bake with it.  It's approved for pregnant women.
Cons: Neotame is potentially as toxic as aspartame, these sweeteners break down to form methanol.
Information: This sweetener contains maltodextrin which is made from corn starch, rice starch, or potato starch (it’s gluten free), it’s been approved by the FDA in 1999 and is 600x sweeter than sugar.
Pros: No calories, can be baked with.  The FDA concluded after 110 studies it does not pose any threats to reproduction, no toxic or carcinogenic effects or neurological risks to the population
Cons: Maltodextrin does add about 12 calories per Tablespoon, this is not listed on the nutrition facts. You may notice an artificial sweetener taste if you bake with it.

Sorbitol, Mannitol
Information: Naturally occurring sugar alcohols that come from fruit.  They are made for use as artificial sweeteners.
Pros: FDA made the GRAS—Generally Regarded As Safe.  They digest slowly. 
Cons: Consuming large quantities (particularly found in ice cream and other frozen desserts) can cause abdominal cramping and diarrhea.  This can happen around 49 g of sorbitol or 19 g or more of manitol. 

Information: Comes from a South American plant and has been used in South America for the last 30 years.
Pros: It naturally has 0 calories but skeptics argue that because of the refining process to extract stevia, it should still be considered an artificial sweetener. 
Cons: This is sold as a dietary supplement and is not regulated by the FDA. 

Acesulfame-K—Sweet One or Sunette
Information: 200 times sweeter than sugar and the body is unable to digest it so to comes out as waste unchanged.
Pros: 0 calories and does not increase the risk of cancer or change blood sugar levels, it can be used in baked goods and it safe for consumption by pregnant women.  
Cons: It does present with a bitter taste on its own, The Center For Science In The Public Interest feels that the studies on this sweetener were not satisfactorily done and did not test extensively its cancer causing risks. 

Aspartame—Equal and NutraSweet
Information: About 180-200 times sweeter than sugar.  Roughly 70% is used in carbonated beverages.  The FDA has set the appropriate daily intake as 4-12 oz cans of diet drink per day and it was approved in 1996. 
Pros: One gram = 4 calories.  It has been approved for pregnant women under the aforementioned guidelines. 
Cons:  It can be baked with some people claim a food allergy or insensitivity to aspartame and may have headaches, mood changes, skin reactions, or dizziness.

Gina Lesako RD, LD is the SCAN blog coordinator (those interested in writing for SCAN can email her directly at  She can also be found blogging at  Find her on SCAN: