Sugar in Food: Sugar Substitutes that You Should Avoid


Among its brand names: Equal Original, Equal Spoonful.

What it is: A synthetic compound. Acesulfame-potassium is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is generally used together with sucralose or aspartame to cut costs and reduce bitterness.

Safety: Tests conducted 40 years ago were of mediocre quality. Two of them suggested that acesulfame-potassium caused cancer in rats. The FDA should require manufacturers to conduct high-quality studies of acesulfame-potassium or withdraw its approval.



Among its brand names: Amino¬Sweet, Equal Next, Equal Original, Equal Spoonful, NutraSweet.

What it is: A synthetic compound. Aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than sugar.

Safety: Aspartame tops the list of sugar substitutes to avoid. In three independent studies, it caused cancer in rats and mice. And in one human study, drinking at least one diet soda a day was linked to a slightly increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma cancer in men (but not in women). That study wasn’t designed to prove cause and effect, though. Even so, those studies should be reason enough for the government to eliminate aspartame from the food supply.

In addition, in 2010 a Danish study found a link between consuming diet soda and preterm delivery. Acesulfame-potassium and aspartame were the most widely used sweeteners in diet soft drinks sold there. The results need to be confirmed by additional studies, though.

And some people report that aspartame causes headache or dizziness.


Among its brand names: Equal Next, Equal Saccharin, Sweet’N Low, Sweet Thing.

What it is: A synthetic compound. Saccharin, which is used mostly as a tabletop sweetener, is 350 times sweeter than sugar.

Safety: In studies on rodents, saccharin has caused bladder cancer, especially in males, as well as other types of cancer in males and females. The best human study also found a link with bladder cancer. Despite the safety controversies, saccharin remains legal.

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