Just Say No To Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial Sweeteners

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved five artificial sweeteners as of August 2006: aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame-K, neotame, and sucralose.

Following are excerpts from the July-August 2006 FDA Consumer magazine:


Brand names include NutraSweet and Equal.

“The FDA first approved aspartame in 1981 as a tabletop sweetener, and for use in gum, breakfast cereal and other dry products. The use of aspartame was expanded to sodas in 1983, and then to use as a general-purpose sweetener in all foods and drinks in 1996.

When ingested, aspartame is converted in the body to methanol and two amino acids – aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Because of the phenylalanine component, aspartame does carry a risk for people with the rare genetic disorder phenylketonuria. People who have this disorder should avoid or restrict aspartame use because of their body’s difficulty in metabolizing phenylalanine. Its use can cause phenylalanine to build up in the blood at higher levels than normal.”


Brand names include Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin, and Necta Sweet.

“Saccharin was discovered in 1879 and has been considered generally recognized as safe (GRAS) until 1972, when the FDA removed it from the GRAS list. By definition in the law, a GRAS substance has a long history of safe use in foods, or is determined to be safe based on proven science. But if new evidence suggests that a GRAS substance many no longer be safe, the FDA can prohibit its use or require further safety studies.

In 1977, the FDA proposed a ban on saccharin because of concerns about rats that developed bladder cancer after receiving high doses of saccharin. In response, Congress passed the Saccharin Study and Labeling Act. This legislation put a moratorium on the ban while more safety studies were under way. Also, foods containing saccharin were required to carry a label warning that the sweetener could be a health hazard and that it was found to cause cancer in some laboratory animals. Saccharin has been the subject of more than 30 studies in humans.

According to the National Cancer Institute, further studies showed that saccharin did not cause cancer in humans, and that the bladder tumors in rats were related to a mechanism that isn’t relevant for humans. In 2000, the National Toxicology Program determined that saccharin should no longer be listed as a potential cancer-causing agent. Federal legislation followed in 2001, removing the requirement for the saccharin-warning label.”

Acesulfame-K (potassium)

Brand names include Sunett and Sweet One.

“Acesulfame-K was first approved by the FDA in 1988 for specific uses, including as a tabletop sweetener. The FDA approved the sweetener in 1998 for use in beverages. In December 2003, it was approved for general use in foods, but not in meat or poultry. Acesulfame-K can be found in baked goods, frozen desserts, candies, beverages, cough drops and breath mints.”Neotame

“The FDA approved neotame in 2002 as a general-purpose sweetener in a wide variety of food products other than meat or poultry. It has been approved for use in baked goods, soft drinks, chewing gum, frosting, frozen desserts, jams, jellies, gelatins, puddings, processed fruit and fruit juices, toppings, and syrups.”


The brand name is Splenda.

“Although sucralose is made from table sugar, it adds no calories because it is not digested in the body. After reviewing more than 110 animal and human studies, the FDA approved sucralose in 1998 for use in 15 food categories, including as a tabletop sweetener and for use in products such as beverages, chewing gum frozen desserts, fruit juices, and gelatins. In 1999, the FDA allowed sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener in all foods.”

Splenda would like you to believe their product is healthier than other artificial sweeteners because it is made from sugar. The active ingredient in Splenda may start as pure cane sugar but it is chemically altered with chlorine to create a compound that contains no calories. In 2007 McNeil Nutritionals, the maker of Splenda, settled a lawsuit for an undisclosed amount over its misleading advertising slogan “Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar.” That claim no longer appears in their advertising.

From the book, Toxics A to Z, A Guide To Everyday Pollution Hazards, “Complaints about aspartame account for 80% of the telephone calls received on the FDA food additives hotline. The most common complaint about aspartame is that it causes sever headaches among sensitive individuals. But the FDA has been unable to prove that this is indeed the case. The FDA did find that some people break out in hives following aspartame ingestion.

Despite the lack of evidence regarding toxic effects of aspartame, some scientists are concerned because aspartame contains an amino acid called aspartate that in large doses is known to stimulate the brain excessively. This over-stimulation can damage the brain, perhaps leading to neurological diseases. Studies also indicate that children, especially infants, might be particularly vulnerable to brain damage caused by aspartate-induced over-stimulation of neurons in the brain. Some scientists suggest that pregnant women should avoid ingesting aspartame because infant laboratory animals seem particularly vulnerable to brain damage caused by excessive stimulation to the brain brought about by aspartate.”

And on saccharin, “Many researchers now think that saccharin may promote the growth of tumors that already exist, rather than help create them. Nevertheless, uncertainties remain regarding its safety. The urine of mice fed saccharin has been shown to be mutagenic. In addition some researchers believe that impurities associated with the manufacture of saccharin may be cancer causing. Some researchers believe that children, especially those under 10 years of age, may be at special risk from saccharin consumption because of the long time required for most cancers to develop. Others are concerned about pregnant women consuming saccharin, given the increased risk of cancer reported among rats who were exposed to saccharin before and after birth.”

From the book SAFE FOOD by Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D, Lisa Lefferts and Anne Garland about Acesulfame-K, “The public is waiting for an artificial sweetener that is unquestionably safe. But this one isn’t it. Even compared to aspartame and saccharin, acesulfame K is the worst. The additive is inadequately tested, the FDA based its approval on tests of acesulfame K that fell short of the FDA’s own standards. But even those tests indicate that the additive causes cancer in animals, which means it may increase cancer risk in humans. In l987, CSPI urged the FDA not to approve acesulfame K, but was ignored. After the FDA gave the chemical its blessing, CSPI urged that it be banned. The FDA hasn’t yet ruled on that request.”

Citizens for Health, the national grassroots advocacy organization committed to protecting and expanding natural health choices is so concerned about sucralose they submitted a Citizen Petition to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) calling on the agency to revoke its approval.

“There were potential public health concerns regarding sucralose that were dismissed by the FDA when they first approved this synthetic additive,” said Jim Turner, Esq. chairman of the board of Citizens for Health. “People should also know, however, that there has not been a single human clinical study on the finished product, Splenda.”

Meanwhile, health concerns and adverse event self-reports are mounting as consumers are currently turning to Web sites and chat rooms to document their experiences with Splenda. Consumers have begun to allege that they have suffered health side effects from use of the artificial sweetener. These grievances about health effects range from skin rashes, to headaches, to severe gastrointestinal problems.

“The sheer number of complaints on the Internet warrants an investigation,” said Turner. “Most of the testing on the safety of sucralose was conducted by the manufacturer, McNeil Nutritionals. If the manufacturer is as sure about the safety of the product as is claimed, it too will join us in the call for an independent investigation into what, if any, side effects can accompany the use of the product.”

Splenda also includes dextrose and maltodextrin. Since pregnant women who have a genetic trait for galactosemia are at risk for having a baby with galactosemia, there should be a warning—similar to the PKU warning required for aspartame—that Splenda contains a galactose monosaccharide.”

Avoiding these artificial sweeteners may be more difficult that you realize. In addition to appearing in food and beverages, they can be in medication, toothpaste, mouthwash, and lipstick but may not be listed on the label. Your pharmacist should be able to tell you if any of these are used in your medication. And since the absence of these chemicals on the label of your health and beauty products is no assurance, look for products that declare that no artificial sweeteners have been added.

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