Are Artificial Food Sweeteners a Health Risk?

Understanding artificial sweeteners can be difficult. There is a lot of conflicting information about their safety and health risks.

The world is becoming more health-conscious and sugar intake is a concern. Artificial sweeteners may be able to help. But are they a health risk? What is the acceptable daily intake?

We will explore the world of artificial sweeteners, their benefits and risks. What are the alternatives? We want to help you make an informed decision about their use and the potential risks.


Are Artificial Food Sweeteners Safe to Consume?

Artificial food sweeteners are generally recognized as safe for human consumption by regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 1

Still, there is ongoing debate and research about their long-term effects on health. It's recommended that the general population consume them moderately and consider natural sweeteners as alternatives.


What are Artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are man-made food additives. A lot like table sugar, but with fewer or even no calories at all. Diet and low-calorie food products use them to provide sweetness without calories. Artificial sweeteners are sweeter than table sugar. This means a smaller amount can achieve the desired level of sweetness.

Aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose are some of the most common examples. Another name for these ingredients is "nonnutritive sweeteners". Although they don't contain calories or sugar, they also don't have beneficial nutrients. Nutrients like vitamins, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants which are present in fruits.


Common Types of Artificial Sweeteners

There are several common types of artificial sweeteners. One of the most well-known is aspartame. Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener used in many sugar-free products.

Saccharin is another artificial sweetener and is one of the oldest ones available. It is often used in beverages as a sugar substitute. Sucralose is a no-calorie sweetener made from real sugar. It's used in baking and as a sugar substitute in a variety of products. Acesulfame potassium is a calorie-free sweetener used in many foods and drinks.

The FDA also permits the use of sugar alcohols like sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, and erythritol. 2The sweetness of sugar alcohol varies from 25% to 100% as sweet as sugar. They don't promote tooth decay or cause a sudden increase in blood glucose. Also natural sugar has more calories than sugar alcohols.


The Use of Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners sweeten products without the calorie content of sugar. Artificial sweeteners allow food manufacturers to offer reduced-sugar and calorie-conscious options to consumers. These include sugar-free and low-calorie versions of popular products like soft drinks.


Artificial Sweeteners in Food and Drinks

Artificial sweeteners have become popular in the food and beverage industry. Products ranging from diet sodas to ice cream. This way people can indulge their sweet tooth without the guilt of sugar and extra calories

One common application of artificial sweeteners is in beverages. Many soft drink companies offer diet versions of their popular sodas. They use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. People can now enjoy the taste of a soda without the weight gain.

Artificial sweeteners are also used in baking. People can substitute the sugar in their favorite recipes to avoid excess calories. This allows them to enjoy their favorite baked goods guilt-free.

Artificial sweeteners have also proven to be beneficial for individuals with diabetes. These sweeteners are perfect for people who need to limit their sugar. They don't cause an increase in blood sugar levels 3 so they provide consumers with a range of options. These sweeteners are a solution for people who want to manage weight or control blood sugar.


Meal Replacements and Protein Powders

Artificial sweeteners have even found their way into meal replacements and protein powders. The people who use these products are usually looking to control their weight. These companies can make a great-tasting product with fewer calories. The use of artificial sweeteners has made them more appealing to a wider range of consumers.

Unfortunately, some people may experience adverse effects from artificial sweeteners. Some may experience digestive issues such as bloating or gas. Studies suggest that they have negative effects on gut health and metabolic function.


The Benefits of Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners offer benefits that make them attractive to many people. To understand their impact there are two main groups of people to consider.


Caloric Reduction and Weight Management

Artificial sweeteners have been great for people looking to manage their body weight. People can still enjoy guilty pleasures while trying to stay healthy. This is especially true of soda. Soda is very high in sugar and calories while providing zero health benefits. Now people who enjoy soda can indulge their cravings without consequences.

Not only are artificial sweeteners used in our favorite beverages but in baking as well. Replacing sugar in our favorite recipes can help us meet our health goals.


Suitability for Diabetics

Artificial food sweeteners have become a popular choice for individuals with diabetes. These sweeteners do not raise blood sugar levels as regular sugar does. High blood sugar can be deadly for a diabetic so artificial sweeteners are a near miracle. This makes artificial sweeteners a valuable tool in managing diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners offer a range of options to suit different dietary needs. You can get them in tablets, liquid drops, or powders. There is an artificial sweetener out there to accommodate every diabetic's taste.


Health Risks Associated with Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners have some potential health risks associated with their consumption. It's important to understand and consider these risks before using them.


Short-term Effects of Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners can have negative short-term effects. 4 Their effects on the gut microbiota and their impact on food intake are being researched.

Studies have suggested that artificial food sweeteners can affect glucose metabolism and insulin levels. This could lead to an increased appetite and food intake. Understanding the short-term effects of artificial sweeteners is important for making informed choices.


Long-term Effects of Artificial Sweeteners

The long-term effects of man made sweeteners are a subject of scientific interest. Research is assessing the potential health implications of long-term artificial sweetener consumption.

Recent studies imply that there might be no real benefit to NNS use. 5 Understanding the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners is important.


Nonnutritive Sweeteners Use: Susceptible Populations

Safety studies have shown that some groups may be more affected by artificial food sweeteners. For instance, pregnant women should avoid consuming a lot of non-nutritive sweeteners. Studies have shown they can affect fetal development. 6 People with certain medical conditions such as phenylketonuria (PKU) need to avoid aspartame.

Children are another group that should be careful with artificial sweeteners. 7 Regulatory authorities say that sugar substitutes are safe. Even so, it is important not to rely on them for children's dietary needs. Instead, it's recommended to encourage a balanced diet with a variety of whole foods.


A Closer Look at Specific Sweeteners

Let's take a closer look at man-made sweeteners and their effects on health.



Researchers are studying the potential health effects of aspartame consumption. 8 They are hoping to understand and test it as a sugar substitute. In 2019 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed aspartame a possible cancer risk.

The FDA identified shortcomings in the studies on which IARC based its conclusions. It disagreed with IARC that aspartame should receive classification as a possible carcinogen. Aspartame has been a focus of research by this agency. They've studied its effects on insulin levels, glucose metabolism, and general health markers.


Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K)

Acesulfame Potassium or Ace-K, is another artificial sweetener used in food and beverages. It is safe for consumption according to the FDA and EFSA. Yet, some studies suggest that Ace-K may have potential effects on the gut microbiome. Researchers are investigating its impact on glucose metabolism and insulin levels.



Another common artificial sweetener is saccharin. Its effects on health are also a topic of investigation. Research suggests saccharin has a negative effect on the gut microbiome. 9

Examining the effects of saccharin is important for evaluating its safety and suitability. Studies dating back to the 1970s have shown that saccharin is not linked to a higher risk of cancer.



Sucralose and its effects on health are also a focus of research. Particularly its impact on the gastrointestinal tract. 10

Sucralose has been the subject of extensive research to learn about its impact on health. This includes human studies. Researchers are looking for possible toxic effects on weight control and insulin resistance.

The FDA has reviewed human clinical trials to understand the effects of sucralose.


Natural Alternatives to Artificial Food Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are a popular choice as sugar substitutes. There are also natural alternatives available that offer sweetness without the potential risks. Let's explore some of the natural sweeteners and their benefits.


Stevia and Its Benefits

Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia Rebaudiana. This plant originates in South America. It is a popular alternative to man-made sweeteners and its popularity is growing. It is much sweeter than sugar, so only a small amount of stevia can achieve the same level of sweetness.

Stevia contains steviol glycoside, which is 10–15 times sweeter than sucrose. Our bodies do not metabolize these glycosides so they get no calories from stevia. Stevia is low in calories and does not affect blood sugar levels.

This fact makes it a good option for those with diabetes or trying to lose weight. Stevia also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may provide some health benefits.


Monk Fruit

Another natural sweetener gaining popularity is monk fruit. Monk fruit is fruit that grows in Southeast Asia. It has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Now it's gaining recognition for its sweetening properties.

Monk fruit is made up of mogrosides. Mogrosides are responsible for the sweet taste of monk fruit. Though much sweeter than sugar, mogrosides do not raise blood sugar levels. This makes monk fruit suitable for diabetics and those watching their sugar intake.

Monk fruit also has antioxidant properties, reduces inflammation, and supports the immune system.


Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is another natural sweetener that could be a benefit.

Coconut sugar is produced from sap of coconut palm trees. Coconut sugar is unrefined and retains more nutrients compared to regular white sugar. It contains vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than traditional sugar as well. Because of this, coconut sugar causes a slower rise in blood sugar levels. For people with diabetes, coconut sugar is a good option.

Coconut sugar also contains inulin, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic and supports gut health.


Honey as a Natural Sweetener

Honey is another natural sweetener. It contains antioxidants and antibacterial properties. Studies also suggest that it reduces inflammation and improves digestive health. It is important to consume honey in moderation, as it is still high in calories and sugar. Honey is healthier than artificial sweeteners. Even so, it's important to be mindful of the calories and sugar content.


Making Informed Choices about Sweeteners

Making informed choices about sweeteners is crucial for health-conscious individuals. It's important to understand food labels and how to spot artificial sweeteners.


Decoding Food Labels

To understand the health implications of the products we eat, we need to be aware of food labels. Familiarizing ourselves with food labels and the terminology used is an essential skill. Not only to identify artificial sweeteners but also various other nutrition issues. By understanding food labels, we make better-informed choices about the products we buy. Awareness is the key to a healthy lifestyle.


Are the Risks Worth It?

Many people wonder if the risks of artificial sweeteners are worth the benefits. These sweeteners give us a zero-calorie alternative to sugar. They can also be helpful for those with diabetes or trying to lose weight. Still, there are some concerns to consider.

Studies suggest that the use of artificial sweeteners can lead to increased cravings and a higher likelihood of overeating. There have also been concerns about potential long-term health effects. Although we need more research, awareness is the best way to make informed choices.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises against using non-sugar sweeteners for weight loss. "Replacing free sugars with NSS does not help with weight control in the long term."


Finding Balance

Finding a balance between artificial sweeteners and natural options is key. Moderation is crucial in all aspects of our diet, including sweeteners. We should overindulge neither artificial sweeteners nor all-natural.

If I was diabetic I might see some value in artificial food sweeteners. But how valuable could it be if it causes new health problems?

I find that when it comes to food, the more natural the better. How many times have we stumbled across the newest, greatest, invention of man only to find out a decade later that it was giving us cancer? Or wreaking havoc on digestion? Recognize that sometimes maybe discipline is the answer.

Striking a balance is between good health and our sweet tooth is a challenge. It's important to read food labels and understand what we're consuming every day. Being informed about what we eat, empowers us to make better choices.




How Much Artificial Sweetener is Considered a "Moderate Amount"?


The official FDA answer is:

How many packets can a person consume and still be at the safe level for each sweetener based on its sweetness intensity?

Examples of Brand Names Containing Sweetener


Number of Sweetener Packets a Person Would Need to Consume in a Day to Reach the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI)*

Nutrasweet®, Equal®, Sugar Twin®



Sweet One®, Sunett®

Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K)







23 (sweetness intensity at 10,000 times sucrose)




Sweet and Low®, Sweet Twin®, Sweet'N Low®, Necta Sweet®


45 (sweetness intensity at 400 times sucrose)

Truvia®, PureVia®, Enliten®

Steviol Glycosides

9 (sweetness intensity at 300 times sucrose)

Notes About the Chart:

The ADI in milligrams per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg bw/d) for the sweeteners in the chart:

  • Aspartame is 50 mg/kg bw/d
  • Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) is 15 mg/kg bw/d
  • Sucralose is 5 mg/kg bw/d
  • Neotame is 0.3 mg/kg bw/d
  • Advantame is 32.8 mg/kg bw/d
  • Saccharin is 15 mg/kg bw/d
  • Steviol Glycosides is 4 mg/kg bw/d. ADI established by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). The FDA has experts that participate in the JEFCA.

* Number of sweetener packets a 60 kg (132 pound) person would need to consume to reach the ADI. The FDA assumed a sweetener packet is as sweet as two teaspoons (approximately 8 grams) of sugar for these comparisons.

On the other hand the idea that anyone knows the safe limit of these additives seems inconceivable. Studies continue to reveal that we don't know enough about the long-term consequences of these artificial food sweeteners.

References :

1.How Sweet It Is: All About Sweeteners. (2023, December 19). US Food and Drug Administration,

2.Aspartame and Other Sweeteners in Food. (2023, December 19). Food and Drug Adminstration,,of%20sweeteners%2C%20as%20sugar%20substitutes..

3.Ma, J., Bellon, M., Wishart, J. M., Young, R., Blackshaw, L. A., Jones, K. L., Horowitz, M., & Rayner, C. K. (2009). Effect of the artificial sweetener, sucralose, on gastric emptying and incretin hormone release in healthy subjects. American journal of physiology. Gastrointestinal and liver physiology, 296(4), G735–G739.

4.Ruiz-Ojeda, F. J., Plaza-Díaz, J., Sáez-Lara, M. J., & Gil, A. (2019). Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 10(suppl_1), S31–S48.

5.Sharma, A., Amarnath, S., Thulasimani, M., & Ramaswamy, S. (2016). Artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute: Are they really safe?. Indian journal of pharmacology, 48(3), 237–240.

6.Goran, M. I., Plows, J. F., & Ventura, E. E. (2019). Effects of consuming sugars and alternative sweeteners during pregnancy on maternal and child health: evidence for a secondhand sugar effect. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 78(3), 262–271.

7.Shum, B., & Georgia, S. (2021). The Effects of Non-Nutritive Sweetener Consumption in the Pediatric Populations: What We Know, What We Don't, and What We Need to Learn. Frontiers in endocrinology, 12, 625415.

8.Czarnecka, K., Pilarz, A., Rogut, A., Maj, P., Szymańska, J., Olejnik, Ł., & Szymański, P. (2021). Aspartame-True or False? Narrative Review of Safety Analysis of General Use in Products. Nutrients, 13(6), 1957.

9.Shil, A., & Chichger, H. (2021). Artificial Sweeteners Negatively Regulate Pathogenic Characteristics of Two Model Gut Bacteria, E. coli and E. faecalis. International journal of molecular sciences, 22(10), 5228.

10.Del Pozo, S., Gómez-Martínez, S., Díaz, L. E., Nova, E., Urrialde, R., & Marcos, A. (2022). Potential Effects of Sucralose and Saccharin on Gut Microbiota: A Review. Nutrients, 14(8), 1682.


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