Update on non-nutritive sweeteners and its adverse effects

Deneize Asim Puri
Nutrition Consultant,
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, PNDS

The use of artificial sweeteners has increased greatly by those who wish to curtail caloric intake or restrict the use of sugar in order to control blood sugar levels.

From time to time, questions arise about the safety of non-nutritive sweeteners particularly in regard to cancer, seizures, pregnancy and other toxicities. Aspartame appears to receive more attention in the media about its safety than other non-nutritive sweeteners. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved five non-nutritive sweeteners and regulates them as food additive: saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose and neotame.  Therefore as dietetic professionals it is important that we have science-based information about sweeteners and support research on the use of sweeteners to promote eating enjoyment, optimal nutrition, and health. (1)

Evidence analysis is in progress on non-nutritive sweeteners on The American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Evidence Analysis Library.(2)The majority of studies did not document adverse effects to the intake of non-nutritive sweeteners, even in large amounts. No data from longitudinal cohort studies were available for review. Such studies would be useful to clarify safety issues.

The FDA has reviewed more than 100 safety studies that were conducted on each sweetener, including studies to assess cancer risk. The results of these studies showed no evidence that these sweeteners cause cancer or pose other threat to human health. (13)

In the American Diabetes Association’s Executive Summary of Medical Care in Diabetes 2009, it is recommended that Non-nutritive sweeteners are safe when consumed within the acceptable daily intake (ADI) levels established by the Food and Drug Administration (14) (Table 1).  It is also the position of the American Dietetic Association that consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners when consumed in a diet that healthy and well balanced.  It should be noted that for reaching upper limit of aspartame a 50 kg person would have to take more than 140 tablets (18 mg aspartame each) of aspartame or drink nineteen standard sized (350 ml) cans of diet drink.


Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of Approved non-nutritive sweeteners (1)

Nonnutritive Sweeteners Acceptable Daily Intake(ADI)
Acesulfame-K 15mg/kg bw*/day
Aspartame 50mg/kg bw*/day  (=2500 mg or about 140 tablets for a 50 kg person)
Neotame 18mg/day
Saccharin 0-5mg/kg bw*/day
Sucralose 5mg/kg bw*/day

*kilogram body weight

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