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5 Myths about Artificial Sweeteners Regarding Cancer, Weight Control, and Tooth Decay

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes but may be derived from naturally occurring substances, including herbs or sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter (up to 300 times!) than regular sugar.

Artificial sweeteners approved by the FDA, Food and Drug Administration, are:

  • Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
  • Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)


Artificial Sweeteners and Charlotte, Columbia

Typical Artificial Sweeteners

Myth 1-  Do artificial sweeteners cause cancer?

This all began with a study many years ago when Sweet’n Low was found to cause cancer of the bladder in rats.  The FDA was going to take it off of the market, but did not secondary to a public outcry.  Many years later, an additional study relooked the issue and found the cancer was caused by a pH change in the urine of these rats.  The cancer was not due to Sweet’n Low.  Artificial sweeteners have been consumed for years without additional evidence that they cause cancer.   Currently, there is no evidence that artificial sugars cause cancer, and they are labeled by the FDA as GRAS, Generally Recognized as Safe.

Myth 2   Do artificial sweeteners cause insulin levels to spike?

Insulin is produced by the pancreas in response to increased sugar levels in the body.  Increase levels can ultimately contribute to diabetes and other health problems.  It has been thought that the sweet taste of the artificial sweeteners could trick your body into producing increase levels of insulin.  The vast majority of studies looking at the change in insulin levels in response to artificial sweeteners have shown no spike increase in insulin levels.   

Myth 3   Do artificial sweeteners good for weight control?

A gram of regular table sugar contains 4 calories, and a teaspoon of sugar is about 4 grams.  One 12-ounce can of  cola contains 8 teaspoons of sugar or about 130 calories.  Artificial sugars contain virtually no calories.

Processed foods, which often contain sugar substitutes, generally don’t offer the same health benefits as do whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables. This is one reason why only changing your diet by using less sugar and more artificial sweeteners may not help with weight control.  Consumers must look at the labels carefully, but it appears if you have the choice of the same product when the only difference is the type of sweetener used, the product using artificial sweetener will have less calories and should help with weight control.  This is not a simple myth to answer as the consumer must eat healthy foods and substituting artificial sweateners at appropriate times.  If artificial sweeteners are used in this manner, they should help with weight control although there are studies that suggest the use of artificial sweeteners may cause weight gain, but the reason is unknown.

Myth 4  Do artificial sugars cause cavities?

Sugar is a well known cause of cavities and dental decay.  If you had only consumed artificial sweeteners, then you may have had less cavities as artificial sweeteners do not cause tooth decay.

Myth 5  The average American drinks 47 gallons of soda a year?

This is true, Americans drink on average 47 gallons of soda in a year.  Of these 47 gallons only 27% are diet soda containing artificial sweeteners.

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