Nutrition & Health Info Sheets for Consumers - Nonnutritive Sweeteners

Chocolates

Nutrition & Health Info Sheets contain up-to-date information about nutrition, health, and food. They are provided in two different formats for consumer and professional users. These resources are produced by Dr. Rachel Scherr and her research staff. Produced by Ann Dang, Kelsie Kan, Melissa Yu, Britt Robinson, Anna M. Jones, PhD, Rachel E. Scherr, PhD.

What is a nonnutritive or alternative sweetener?

Nonnutritive sugars, or alternative sweeteners, are sweeteners that are added to foods and drinks to provide sweetness while adding fewer calories. They are called nonnutritive because they do not supply nutrients to the body. Nonnutritive sweeteners are much sweeter than table sugar. This is known as sweetness intensity. Much less is required to achieve an ideal sweetness level (Table 1). [1,2]

What is the difference between added sugars and nonnutritive sweeteners?

The difference between added sugars and nonnutritive sweeteners is the level of sweetness and the number of calories in each. Nonnutritive sweeteners are used in place of added sugar. This is done to lower the number of calories in food or beverages.

In the U.S, more than 13% of daily calories are from added sugars. This adds about 270 calories each day from soda, fruit juice, processed foods, baked goods, ice cream, jams, syrups, and candies. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, no more than 10% of total calories should be from added sugars. Using nonnutritive sweeteners is one way eat less added sugar. [2]

What are some examples of nonnutritive sweeteners?

The following table lists information about common nonnutritive sweeteners. [1]

Table 1. Nonnutritive Sweetener Nutritional Information [1]

Artificial sweetener

Listed on packages as:

Brand name

Relative sweetness to table sugar

Calories (kcal) per 1g packet

Acceptable Daily Intake (mg/kg body weight/d)

Acesulfame-K

Acesulfame potassium, Acesulfame K, Ace-K

Sunett, Sweet One

200 times sweeter

0 kcal

15

Advantame

Advantame

N/A

20,000 times sweeter

0 kcal

32.8

Aspartame

Aspartame **Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine

Equal, NutraSweet

180 times sweeter

4 kcal

50

Neotame

Neotame

Newtame

7,000-13,000 times sweeter

0 kcal

0.3

Saccharin

Saccharin

Sweet’N Low, Necta Sweet

300 times sweeter

3 kcal

15

Stevia

Stevia leaf extract

Stevia

300 times sweeter

0 kcal

N/A

Steviol Glycosides

Steviol Glycosides

Truvia, PureVia, Enliten

200-400 times sweeter

0 kcal

4

Sucralose

Sucralose

Splenda

600 times sweeter

3 kcal

5

*ADI based on a 60 kg (132 lb) individual

** Because aspartame contains a component called phenylalanine, individuals with phenylketonuria are encouraged to consume little to no aspartame. Products containing aspartame include the following disclaimer on their packages: “Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine”. [1,3]

Are “sugar-free” products truly sugar-free?

Sugar-free products often contain sugar alcohols in place of sugar. They are not considered non-nutritive sweeteners. Sugar alcohols are another type of sweetener. While some are as sweet as sugar, others are less sweet. [1] They are chemically similar to sugars but contain fewer calories per gram. Despite the name, they do not contain the same kind of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. Sugar alcohols are absorbed more slowly than other carbohydrates.

Products containing sugar alcohols are labelled as “sugar-free” or “reduced-sugar.” Some foods that may contain sugar alcohols include chewing gum, desserts, and candies. Some sugar alcohols commonly found in foods include: erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH), isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. Foods including sugar alcohols may still be high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates. [13]

Are there health implications of consuming nonnutritive sweeteners?

  • Sucralose and Leukemia: While the FDA has approved of the use of sucralose in foods and beverages, some animal studies that suggest very large amounts of sucralose may have a connection with risks of blood and bone marrow tumors. [8,9] However, these results do not reflect how much people tend to actually eat. Animal studies typically use tens or hundreds of times more than what a person would normally consume. [14]
  • Nonnutritive Sweeteners and Weight Loss: The American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association stated that nonnutritive sweeteners can help people lose weight. This is only the case if they aren’t consuming other high calorie foods as a replacement [10].  Results vary as there are other studies that show nonnutritive sweeteners may increase risk of obesity. [6, 10, 11, 12] This can be due to the fact that weight loss depends on many different factors, such as lifestyle and genes.
  • Diet Sodas and Chronic Disease: Some studies have shown that diet drinks can contribute to the risk of obesity. In turn, excess weight can increase the risk of developing diseases, such as Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. [13] However, the research is mixed and these diseases are complex. It’s unclear how nonnutritive sweeteners impact disease risk.

How much is too much?

The FDA has approved a certain amount that is safe to consume each day, known as Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) levels (Table 1). The ADI levels are based off of animal and human studies that examine safety. People with certain conditions, such as Phenylketonuria (PKU) should avoid some sweeteners (aspartame) because of the inability to break down its components. For most individuals, however, consuming levels at the ADI are considered safe. [4]

 

References:

  1. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. High-Intensity Sweeteners. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/high-intensity-sweeteners. Published December 19, 2017. Accessed December 4, 2019.
  2. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 8th Edition. Chapter 6 Fats. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Published December 2015. Accessed December 4, 2019.
  3. Dasgupta A, Wahed A. Inborn Errors of Metabolism. In Dasgupta A, Wahed A, eds. Clinical Chemistry, Immunology and Laboratory Quality Control. San Diego, CA: Elsevier; 2014.
  4. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Food Additives & Ingredients - Additional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for Use in Food in the United States. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/additional-information-about-high-intensity-sweeteners-permitted-use-food-united-states. Published February 8, 2018. Accessed December 4, 2019.
  5. Swithers SE. Not so Sweet Revenge: Unanticipated Consequences of High-Intensity Sweeteners. Behav Anal. 2015 Mar 12;38(1):1-17. doi: 10.1007/s40614-015-0028-3.
  6. Borges MC, Louzada ML, Sá THD, et al. Artificially Sweetened Beverages and the Response to the Global Obesity Crisis. PLOS Medicine. 2017;14(1):e1002195. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002195.
  7. Soffritti M, Padovani M, Tibaldi E, et al. Sucralose administered in feed, beginning prenatally through lifespan, induces hematopoieyic neoplasias in male swiss mice. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2016 Jan;22(1):7-17. doi: 10.1080/10773525.2015.1106075.
  8. Mann S, Yuschak M, Amyes S, Aughton P, Finn J. A carcinogenicity study of sucralose in the CD-1 mouse. Food Chem Toxicol. 2000;38:91-97. doi:10.1016/s0278-6915(00)00030-2.
  9. Gardner C, Wylie-Rose J, Gidding SS, et al. Nonnutritive Sweeteners: Current Use and Health Perspectives. Circulation. 2012;126(4):509-519. doi:10.1161/cir.0b013e31825c42ee.
  10. Fowler SP, Williams K, Resendez RG, Hunt KJ, Hazuda HP, Stern MP. Fueling the Obesity Epidemic? Artificially Sweetened Beverage Use and Long-term Weight Gain. Obesity. 2008;16(8):1894-1900. doi:10.1038/oby.2008.284.
  11. Reid M, Hammersley R, Hill AJ, Skidmore P. Long-term dietary compensation for added sugar: effects of supplementary sucrose drinks over a 4-week period. Br J Nutr. 2007 Jan;97(1):193-203. doi:10.1017/s0007114507252705.                                             
  12. Nettleton J, Lutsey P, Wang Y, et al. Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Diabetes Care. 2009;32(4): 688-694. doi:10.2337/dc08-1799.
  13. Learn about the Nutrition Facts Label. Nutrition Facts Label Sugar Alcohols Fact Sheet. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/factsheets/Sugar_Alcohols.pdf. Accessed December 4, 2019.
  14. Magnuson BA, Roberts A, Nestmann EA. Critical review of the current literature on the safety of sucralose. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2017;106:324-355. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2017.05.047.

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