8 Zero-Calorie Sweeteners and Their Risks

Here is a list of non-caloric sweeteners from worst to best least worst:

1. Cyclamate

  • Also known as Sucaryl
  • 30-50 times sweeter than table sugar
  • Discovered by accident in 1937 by a graduate student at the University of Illinois
  • Approved for use in 1958
  •  A 1969 study showed that cyclamate could lead to bladder cancer in rats.
  • Banned by the FDA in 1969 after evidence of liver damage, bladder cancer, birth defects, and shrinkage of testes (ouch)
  • Surprisingly, cyclamate is still being used in other countries.

2. Saccharin

  • Also known as Sweet N Low, E954
  • 300-500 times sweeter than table sugar
  • The oldest artificial sweetener, it was created in 1878!
  • Tests in the 1970′s showed a link to bladder cancer in rodents
  • The USDA & FDA proposed banning saccharin in 1972, then again in 1977, but agreed to warning labels instead
  • In 2000, warning labels were deemed no longer necessary after better understanding of the differences between human and rat metabolisms led to the conclusion that saccharin would not harm humans.

3. Acesulfame-Potassium

  • Also known as: Acesulfame-K, Ace-K, E950, Sunett, Sweet-One
  • 200 times sweeter than table sugar and has a bitter after taste
  • Approved by the FDA in 1998
  • Discovered accidentally in the late Sixties
  • It is usually used in conjunction with aspartame or sucralose
  • Safety tests were conducted in the 1970′s and 1980′s, were poorly designed and left questions that even the FDA addressed in working level communications
  • 2 Rat studies showed Ace-k may cause cancer.

4. Aspartame

  • Also known as Nutrasweet, Equal, E951
  • 200 times sweeter than sugar
  • Discovered by accident in 1965 by scientists working for a company that would later be acquired by Monsanto
  • In 1974 the FDA did not approve aspartame, because industry sponsored safety studies were not conducted in a satisfactory manner
  • The FDA finally approved aspartame in 1981 after additional testing (industry sponsored)
  • Today the FDA stance is that aspartame is “one of the most thoroughly tested and studied food additives the agency has ever approved”. Unfortunately these are industry funded studies
  • 3 independent rodent studies in 2005, 2007, and 2010 found that aspartame does cause lymphomas, leukemias, and other tumors. Exposure during gestation and in early life was especially dangerous. The FDA refutes the findings of these studies.

5. Neotame

  • Also known as E961
  • Up to 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar!
  • Approved by the FDA in 2002
  • Manufactured by the same company that makes aspartame (NutraSweet)
  • Unlike aspartame, chemically stable and can be used in baked goods
  • Rarely used because the taste profile is problematic
  • Safety studies were all sponsored by industry.

6. Sucralose

  • Also known as Splenda, E955
  • Up to 1000 times sweeter than table sugar
  • Approved by the FDA in 1998
  • Stable when heated and can be used in baking
  • The manufacturer, McNeil Nutritionals, claims that sucralose “made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar.” In fact, it is a synthetic product made by a chemical reaction of sugar (sucrose) and chlorine
  • Potential issues include DNA alternation (a 2002 study in mice) and damage to healthy gut bacteria (2008)
  • A 2013 study (unpublished yet) indicated sucralose may cause cancer in rats.

7. Stevia

  • Also known as Rebaudioside A, Reb-A, Rebiana, Pure Via, Truvia
  • Up to 300 times sweeter than sugar
  • Approved by the FDA in 2008
  • The stevia plant, native of South America, is naturally sweet and has been in use for hundreds of years
  • The powdered stevia sweetener is derived from the stevia leaf through a complex chemical process
  • Not enough studies have been conducted on stevia extracts. Some studies showed infertility in mice and potential for genetic mutations. Further research is needed.

8. Monkfruit Sweetener

  • Also known as Luo Han Guo, Lo Han Kuo, Nectresse
  • 200 times sweeter than table sugar
  • Extracted from Monkfruit through a complex process
  • No health issues at present, but not enough research has been conducted.

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