Sweeteners: Danger or Health Benefit?

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

“Fake sugars” like aspartame are now used extensively in the food industry. Some people use it as an ally to lose weight, in the same way as some food supplements Or fat burner. While others accuse them of causing all kinds of health problems, from cancer to obesity.

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

What do acquaintances say current scientists on the subject?

Find out the truth about sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners

Sweeteners are substances having a very strong sweetening power but not containing calories. They are used in very small quantities to replace the sweet taste a much larger quantity of sugar.

Among the best known, you may have already seen the following names:

  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame-k (Acesulfame-potassium)
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose
  • Alitam

But are these sweeteners safe to use?

sweetener tablet

The benefits of sweeteners

The interest first of all sweeteners is to eat or drink less sugar while despite everything having a sweet taste. Substitute refined sugar with sweeteners is an effective way to reduce the calories.

But are they safe? Here is what the authorities and studies say about their health safety.

Sweeteners cause cancer

No, sweeteners are not carcinogenic at normal doses.

In 1977, Canada banned the saccharin (E954), and the same year the FDA (the American agency responsible for food authorization) wanted to ban the saccharin, following a series of studies on animals having found a close relationship between saccharin consumption and the development of cancers.

This ban has since been reversed in the United States and Canada plans to re-authorize saccharin. Europe has authorized aspartame since 1994. Only after numerous scientific studies demonstrated its safety for human consumption.

So why is there such concern today? Some studies have shown a correlation between the consumption of saccharin or aspartame and the incidence of cancer in rodents. However, these mechanisms do not seem to apply to humans.

Currently no studies on humans have shown a cause and effect relationship between synthetic sweeteners and health problems at normal doses.

ANSES has defined the daily dose admissible at 40 mg/kg of body weight, the equivalent of more 37 cans of soda per day for a 75 kg man.

In general, studies having found an increased risk of cancer, lymphoma or tumors linked to the consumption of sweeteners have been carried out on rats or mice.

However, men and rodents have some metabolic differences. In particular the way our body uses methanol, a substance from metabolism of aspartame. This is why it is not certain that studies of aspartame on rodents are relevant to humans.

Sweeteners cause migraines

Yes. In some people. A few studies show a possible relationship between aspartame or sucralose consumption and migraine.

Sweeteners disrupt the gut microbiota

Maybe. Not all. In 2019, a review of scientific studies investigating the effects of synthetic and natural sweeteners on the human microbiota identified that only a few sweeteners modify the intestinal flora.

Aspartame and acesulfame-K have been accused of being toxic to the microbiota according to a study in vitro, but these effects have not currently been found in human studies.

Until now only sacharin, sucralose and stevia have changed the composition of the microbiota. Which could impact glucose tolerance, mood, appetite and digestion.


Sweeteners disrupt the appetite

Of the studies on flies and rodents found that sweeteners could create a discrepancy between the sweet taste experienced and the true calorie content of foods, which in turn could make you hungry.

The body could misunderstand because of these contradictory signals. The sweet taste is normally associated with sugary foods that contain calories.

When a discrepancy exists between taste and actual calorie intake, this could trigger a similar response to fasting which increases appetite and intake eating.

It is also possible that the association between sweet taste and caloric intake weakens. Which means that chronic consumption of sweetener can create a situation where the brain no longer “believes” in sugar contains calories.

If this is the case in humans, then people who consume sweeteners could be at risk risk of gaining weight unconsciously.

Aspartame causes an insulin spike

No. Certain proteins can cause an increase in insulin, but not aspartame.

Diabetics also do not have insulin peak after ingestion of sweetener. And this rinse your mouth with a sweet-tasting solution via Sweeteners did not impact this hormone either.

Certainly, a study on cells rat pancreas and whose sweeteners had been transfused directly — instead of ingesting orally — have showed insulin secretion.

However, the studies carried out in vivo in humans show that sweeteners do not cause peak insulin.

Drinks sweetened with sweeteners promote cavities

Yes. Sweet drinks and sodas linked to poor dental health, particularly in children. Although sugar (sucrose) plays a major role, the acidity in general and sodas and the phosphoric acid they often contain contributes to tooth problems and demineralization.

Overconsumption of sugary drinks can cause cavities and yellowing of teeth, whether normal or low-fat sweetened drinks, even if sugar remains worse.

Weight gain or weight loss?

Contrary to certain beliefs popular, drinks sweetened with sweeteners do not prevent not losing weight.

When intervention studies compare diet soda with other no-calorie drinks by controlling the rest of the food, no differencevse no weight loss is noticed.

The problem is more likely eating habits of those who consume diet sodas rather than diet soda itself.

Many people with poor eating habits consume diet sodas to try to “do less worse”. And these people are at risk to be overweight. Which does not mean, however, that they are food additives or low-fat products that make them grow bigger.

So, can you safely consume sweeteners?

If you are a child, a woman pregnant or breastfeeding, or prone to migraines and seizures epilepsy, you should probably be vigilant.

At present, it is not still certain that the regular consumption and in large amount of drinks or foods containing sweeteners does not indirectly contribute to weight gain by disrupting appetite and encouraging you to eat more in spite of yourself.

If you tend to consume low-sugar products every day or several times a day week, perhaps it is better to try to “detox” yourself of sweet taste generally.

If this is not your case, then It’s probably no use worrying if you want to drink a diet soda or instead of a regular soda from time to time.