Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe

Author: Thomas C. Weiss
Published: 2014/10/15 - Updated: 2022/08/19
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Information regarding the safety aspects of sugar substitutes, commonly known as artificial sweeteners that are chemically processed. Before approving these sweeteners, the FDA reviewed more than 100 safety studies conducted on each sweetener, including studies to assess cancer risk. Questions about artificial sweeteners and cancer came up when early studies showed that 'cyclamate,' in combination with saccharin, caused bladder cancer in laboratory animals.

Sugar Substitute (Artificial Sweetener)

A sugar substitute is a food additive that provides a sweet taste like sugar while containing significantly less food energy than sugar-based sweeteners, making it a zero-calorie (non-nutritive) or low-calorie sweetener. In North America, common sugar substitutes include aspartame, monk fruit extract, saccharin, sucralose, and stevia; cyclamate is also used outside the United States. Artificial sweeteners may be derived through manufacturing plant extracts or processed by chemical synthesis. Sugar substitute products are commercially available in various forms, such as small pills, powders, and packets.

Main Digest

Artificial sweeteners are substances used instead of sugar or sugar alcohols. They might also be referred to as sugar substitutes, 'non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS),' or non-caloric sweeteners.

The majority of diet and low-calorie food products available for purchase are made using artificial sweeteners such as:

Artificial Sweeteners and Side Effects

People often question artificial sweeteners' safety and health effects.

The year 2012 found, the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association published a report concluding that sensible use of non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) could help to lower carbohydrate and caloric intake. More research is needed. Enough evidence is also lacking to determine if NNS use leads to weight loss or lowers a person's risk of heart disease.

Additional research is also needed regarding the safety of artificial sweeteners.

There is no clear evidence that the artificial sweeteners sold and used in America are linked to either cancer or coronary heart disease risk in people. Questions about artificial sweeteners and cancer came up when early studies showed that 'cyclamate,' in combination with saccharin, caused bladder cancer in laboratory animals.

Results; however, from subsequent carcinogenicity studies or studies that examine whether a particular substance might cause cancer, artificial sweeteners have not provided clear evidence of an association with cancer in people. Similarly, studies of other FDA-approved sweeteners have not demonstrated clear evidence of an association with cancer in human beings.

Studies and Potential Associations between Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer

Are studies showing a potential association between specific artificial sweeteners and cancer? What have these studies shown?

As a person who has used artificial sweeteners like many people, the thought has occurred that it would be good to know. Studies have shown some answers about sweeteners people use every day in America.

Saccharin and Laboratory Rats

Studies in laboratory rats during the 1970s linked saccharin with the development of bladder cancer. Due to the finding, Congress mandated that additional studies of saccharin be performed and required that all food containing saccharin bear a warning label stating: "Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals."

Subsequent studies in rats revealed an increased incidence of urinary bladder cancer at high doses of saccharin, particularly in male rats. Mechanistic studies or studies examining how a substance works in the body have shown that these results apply only to rats. Human epidemiology studies, which are studies of patterns, causes, and control of diseases in groups of people, have shown no consistent evidence that saccharin is associated with bladder cancer incidence.

Because bladder tumors seen in rats are because of a mechanism not relevant to people and because there is no clear evidence that saccharin causes cancer in people - saccharin was de-listed from the U.S. National Toxicology Program's Report on Carcinogens in the year 2000. Saccharin had been on the list since 1981 as a substance reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. The de-listing of saccharin led to legislation which was signed into law in the year 2000, repealing the warning label requirement for products containing the artificial sweetener.

Aspartame and Lab Testing

Aspartame is distributed under various trade names and was approved in the year 1981 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after several tests showed that it did not cause cancer or other negative effects in laboratory animals. Questions concerning the safety of aspartame were brought back up by a report in 1996, which suggested that an increase in the number of people with brain tumors between 1975 and 1992 may be associated with the introduction and use of the artificial sweetener in America.

An analysis of then-current NCI statistics showed that the overall incidence of brain and central nervous system cancers started to rise in 1973, 8 years before aspartame was approved - continuing to rise through 1985. Increases in overall brain cancer incidence happened mainly in people over 70, a group not exposed to the highest dosages of aspartame since it was introduced. The data does not establish a clear link between the consumption of aspartame and the development of brain tumors in people.

In 2005, a laboratory study found more leukemias and lymphomas in rats fed very high doses of aspartame, equivalent to drinking 8-2,083 cans of diet soda each day. There were some inconsistencies in the findings from the study. For example, as expected, the number of cancer instances did not rise with increasing amounts of aspartame. Subsequently, NCI examined human data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study of over half a million retired people. Increased consumption of beverages containing aspartame was not associated with the development of leukemia, lymphoma, or brain cancer.

Sucralose, Acesulfame potassium and Neotame Studies

Along with saccharin and aspartame, three other artificial sweeteners are permitted for food products in America. These sweeteners include:

Before approving these sweeteners, the FDA reviewed more than 100 safety studies conducted on each sweetener, including studies to assess cancer risk. These studies showed no evidence that these sweeteners cause cancer or present any other threat to a person's health.

Cyclamate Studies

Because the findings in rats suggested that cyclamate may increase the risk of bladder cancer in people, the FDA banned the use of cyclamate in 1969.

After re-examination of cyclamate's carcinogenicity and the evaluation of more information, scientists concluded that cyclamate was not a carcinogen or a 'co-carcinogen,' which is a substance that enhances the effects of a cancer-causing substance. A food additive petition was filed with the FDA for the re-approval of cyclamate; the petition is being held in 'abeyance,' which means it is not actively being considered.

Chemical Instead of Natural Sweeteners

One question that comes to mind where artificial sweeteners are concerned is their chemical makeup. Which is better from a health perspective; natural sweeteners or artificial ones? For many people, the answer is simple, 'If nature did not make it, it is not worth eating or drinking.' For others, the answer is not as simple.

Another question that may arise involves the source of funding for many of the studies performed about artificial sweeteners and cancer. Where did the money to pay for these studies come from, corporations? A great amount of money was involved in these studies, and it came from somewhere. The fact that someone or some corporation with a great interest in finding these sweeteners on the public market also crosses the mind.

While the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) name was once good enough to justify a product's worthiness on the open market, today, the name holds perhaps less meaning for some. The question of whether everyone in America accepts FDA approval of a product as a kind of 'gold standard' anymore also arises.

Living in an America where questions arise such as these is perhaps enough reason for some people in America to continue to question the safety of artificial sweeteners. For others in this nation, regular sugar is enough of a reason to avoid sugary drinks and foods.

The research continues, and while it does, individuals must decide on sweeteners on their own as best they are able.

Resources That Provide Relevant Information

Author Credentials:

Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida. Explore Thomas' complete biography for comprehensive insights into his background, expertise, and accomplishments.

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Cite This Page (APA): Weiss, T. C. (2014, October 15). Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe. Disabled World. Retrieved April 16, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/fitness/nutrition/sweeteners.php

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