Sugar, Part II

Artificial Sweeteners & Sugar Alcohols

Artificial Sweeteners:

  • Also called non-nutritive (since they provide little or no energy) or alternative sweeteners.
  • These are determined as “safe” for consumption in adults, children, and individuals with diabetes.
  • Women who are pregnant should discuss the use of these sweeteners with a healthcare practitioner, even though they are deemed as “safe.”
  • The FDA has assigned an ADI (acceptable daily intake) level for sweeteners.  This is considered to be a safe amount to consume of a sweetener without adverse effects.  These levels are based on studies, and include a 100-fold safety factor.  Human intake is well below the ADI.
  • ADI for sucralose is 5 mg/kg body weight
  • ADI for acesulfame-K is 15 mg/kg body weight
  • ADI for aspartame is 50 mg/kg body weight
  • There is no ADI for saccharin.


  • Sold as Sweet-N-Low
  • ~300 times sweeter than sucrose
  • In the late 1970s, some studies suggested that saccharin may cause bladder cancer in rats.
  • Later studies, did not support this research, however, FDA decided to ban saccharin.
  • Soon after the FDA removed the ban, and studies over the past 20+ years have concluded that saccharin is not related to bladder cancer in humans.


  • Sold as Sunette and Sweet One.
  • 200 times sweeter than sucrose.
  • Used to sweeten gums, candies, beverages, instant tea, coffee, gelatins, and puddings.
  • Heat stable.


  • Sold as Equal and NutraSweet.
  • 180 times sweeter than sucrose.
  • Aspartame contains 4 calories/gram, but since it’s so sweet the amount that is used is virtually calorie free.
  • Not heat stable.
  • Many studies have been conducted on the safety of aspartame, there is no evidence that aspartame leads to brain tumors, Alzheimer’s disease, or nerve disorders.
  • People with PKU (phenylketonuria) must avoid aspartame, since they cannot metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine (part of aspartame).  If they consume it, the phenylalanine builds up in their body tissue and can lead to irreversible brain damage.  In the US all babies are tested for PKU.
  • To reach the ADI, a 150 pound person would need to consume 3,409 mg aspartame.
  • 1 packet = 35 mg aspartame
  • 1 12 oz diet soda = 180 mg aspartame
  • 1 4 oz diet jello = 95 mg aspartame
  • 1 8 oz diet yogurt = 125 mg aspartame


  • Sold as splenda.
  • 600 times sweeter than sucrose.
  • Made from sucrose.  Hydrogen & oxygen are substituted for chlorine atoms.  This new structure passes through the digestive system unchanged, therefore delivering virtually no calories.
  • Heat stable.
  • Studies have not shown any adverse effects of sucralose.

Sugar Alcohols:

  • Also known as polyols, contain on average 2 calories/gram (regular sugar has 4 calories/gram), since they are not fully absorbed during the digestion proces.
  • Less sweet than sucrose: 0.8 times as sweet.
  • Examples include: mannitol, sorbitol, isomalt, and xylitol.
  • Found in sugar-free gums and mints.
  • Pros: do not provide an environment for bacteria to grow in (good for dental health).
  • Cons: consuming large quantities can lead to diarrhea.

Bottom Line:

  • Moderate use of artificial sweeteners & sugar alcohols is safe.
  • However, everyone reacts differently to foods.  If you have migrains you may want to try avoiding artificial sweeteners for a period of time to see if they improve.
  • Studies have shown that while artificial sweeteners do not lead to weight gain themselves, they can make you crave sweets even more.
  • One issue I have with sweeteners is that it breeds into the need to have “sweets” all the time.  I think it’s important to enjoy foods less sweet and in their natural state.

My Suggestions:

  • Instead of reaching for a diet soda try some sparkling water with fresh lime juice instead.
  • Swap out your Dannon-lite-n-fit for a non-fat plain greek yogurt and add in fresh fruit and whole grain cereal.
  • Next time you’re at Starbucks swap out a skinny vanilla latte for a nonfat latte and sprinkle some cinnamon on top.  If you need a little more sugar use 1 packet of the real stuff.
  • Save the use of artificial sweeteners for occasional use, and go for whole foods in their natural state the majority of the time.

Diabetic Patients: Artificial sweeteners can play an important role when managing blood sugar levels.  Seek out the expertise of a CDN to proper meal planning.


8 Responses

  1. I love your suggestions. 😀

    I used to use splenda a lot a few years back until I asked myself if it was really necessary. Now I prefer unsweetened coffees and teas, but when I do prefer something sweet, I’ll reach for one pack of the real sugar.

  2. Thanks for that suggestion about using less of the real stuff. This info is very interesting.

  3. I just came across your blog and I love the suggestions! I just made my first visit to a nutritionist yesterday and I am excited about her ideas. After your reading your post, I am happy to say that I’ve switched from being a big Splenda user to doing all of what you suggested! Woo hoo!

    I’m adding you to my blogroll so I can get more of these great tips!

  4. very interesting- thanks for posting this info!!

  5. What’s your view on Stevia? Is it any different from the guys you mention above?

  6. Btw, I hope you and your husband are enjoying Boston! 😀

  7. thank you! very informational stuff that everyone should know!

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