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The sweet truth: artificial sweeteners

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies artificial sweeteners as food additives. The FDA regulates artificial sweeteners and has approved their use in products such as gum, sweets, diet soda, jams, pudding and other foods and beverages.

As of 2013, there are five FDA-approved artificial sweeteners. They are saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose and neotame, sold under the names Sweet‘N Low, Equal, Sweet One and Splenda, respectively. The FDA extensively reviews research prior to approving any food additive, yet many false claims regarding artificial sweeteners remain.

Phenylketonuria, or PKU, is a rare, heredity disease where phenylalanine cannot be metabolized successfully. Because aspartame contains phenylalanine, people with PKU should avoid artificial sweeteners containing this ingredient. Any food or beverage containing aspartame must prominently display the words “phenylketonurics: contains phenylalanine” on the label.

Acceptable Daily Intake
The FDA has established an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI), for approved artificial sweeteners. The ADI is the amount of artificial sweetener that can be safely consumed each day over a lifetime without any health risks. The ADI for aspartame is 50mg/kg of body weight per day, acesulfame potassium15mg/kg, sucralose 5mg/kg, neotame 18mg/kg and saccharin 15mg/kg. For a 155-pound person, the ADI would equate to drinking more than 20 cans of aspartame-sweetened soda per day.

Artificial sweeteners have been commonly associated with increased cancer risks, yet the National Cancer Institute states there is no clear evidence that current FDA-approved artificial sweeteners are associated with cancer in humans.

Julie Holbrook MS, RD, LDN
Cardiopulmonary and heart failure services


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