Artificial sweeteners are substances that are used in place of sweeteners with sugar or sugar alcohols. They may also be called sugar substitutes.
See also: Sweeteners - sugar for information about sugars and sugar alcohols.
Sugar substitutes are helpful for people who are trying to lose weight or avoid gaining weight. They provide sweetness to foods and drinks without adding any extra calories.
Avoiding sugar by using artificial sweeteners can help prevent cavities, and it can help people with diabetes control their blood sugar.
All artificial sweeteners are chemically made or processed. They may be added to foods and drinks while you eat, and used during baking or other food preparation. Most diet or low-calorie food products you buy at the store are made using artificial sweeteners.
Aspartame (Equal and NutraSweet) is a combination of phenylalanine and aspartic acid, which are two amino acids.
Sucralose (Splenda) is 600 times sweeter than sugar.
Saccharin (Sweet 'N Low, Sweet Twin, NectaSweet) is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar.
Stevia (Truvia, Pure Via, Sun Crystals), a non-caloric sweetner, is made from the plant Stevia rebaudiana, which is grown for its sweet leaves.
Acesulfame K (Sunett and Sweet One) is an artificial sweetener.
Neotame is an artificial sweetener used in many diet foods and drinks.
Cyclamates are 30 times sweeter than sugar. They are banned in the United States because in 1970 they were shown to cause bladder cancer in animals.
There is no clear evidence that the artificial sweeteners sold and used in the United States are linked to cancer 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.
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.
Untied States Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2010.
Artificial sweeteners and cancer. National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet. Last reviewed August 5, 2009.