Artificial sweeteners are chemical sweeteners used as a substitute for the calories (and taste) of sugar. They are much sweeter than refined white sugar and are often combined with sodium to balance extreme sweetness.
Aspartame, acesulfame potassium, saccharin, and sucralose: Aspartame and acesulfame potassium are artificial sweeteners that are 200 times sweeter than table sugar, with a low-calorie and no-calorie content, respectively.
Saccharin is a synthetic sweetener that contains zero calories. It is now the foundation for many low-calorie and sugar-free products. In the early 1970s, lab studies showed a correlation between saccharin and bladder cancer in rodents. This led to the Saccharin Study and Labeling Act of 1977, which mandated that all food containing saccharin be labeled with a warning.
Sucralose is a synthetic sweetener that contains zero calories. It is approximately 320 to 1,000 times as sweet as table sugar, twice as sweet as saccharin, and three times as sweet as aspartame.
What are they used for? These sweeteners are low-calorie or zero-calorie substitutes for sugar in food and beverage products.
Found in: Diet soft drinks, fruit drinks, chewing gum, sugar-free candy, jams, canned fruit, baked goods, dry beverage mixes, gelatins, toothpaste
- Break down easily in extreme temperatures or high acidity, and therefore are not good for baking
- Sucralose and acesulfame potassium are stable under heat, so they can be used for baking
- People with phenylketonuria (PKU) must avoid phenylalanine, including aspartame
- Acesulfame potassium contains the carcinogen methylene chloride; long-term exposure can cause headaches, depression, nausea, liver effects, and cancer
- Although it passes through the body undigested, saccharin may trigger the release of insulin
- A recent Italian study links lifetime consumption of sucralose to higher risk for leukemia