Sweetener artificial and natural, dangers, risks, by Ray Sahelian, M.D. 
October 20 2016


Since the beginning of human history, man has been looking for a natural sweetener to make food more palatable. There are several available in nature, and in recent decades many artificial sweeteners have been created. Most Americans are not aware of certain natural sweeteners that can be as good as the artificial ones in terms of taste and potency. In my opinion, many alternative or natural sweeteners are healthier and have less potential to cause long term health problems. Low calorie choices can help consumers cut down on calories and control weight, help to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, and potentially prevent cavities.
   Whether they are classified as natural, synthetic, or both, the product formulation possibilities appear endless with the relatively new trend of blending. A major trend in the context of the sweetener market is to go “natural” by using ingredients derived from fruits or other natural substances. And then there are those  sugar replacers that offer benefits beyond sweetness. Bulk sugar replacers like inulin and oligofructose play a major role in reducing sugar content while also providing additional health benefits associated with fiber.
   My favorite natural sweetener is stevia liquid which you can find here, Stevia. I use three drops in my herbal tea each morning and it is calorie free.

Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages can seriously damage heart health. The added sucrose or fructose in sodas, fruit drinks, sweet teas and energy drinks affects the body in ways that increase risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke.

Artificial sweeteners and weight loss or gain?
There are several artificial sweeteners on the market that have been approved by the FDA: aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame-K, neotame, and sucralose. Controversy continues as to their benefits and safety. Some claim there is a danger of artificial sweetener usage, while others disagree. It appears drinking diet sodas does not make one lose weight after all. The taste of sweet leads to the release of insulin, which lowers blood sugar , and if carbohydrates are not consumed, it causes a drop in blood sugar, which triggers hunger and cravings for sugar.


Diet soda drinkers tend to pack on more pounds than those who don't. The taste of sweet does cause the release of insulin, which lowers blood sugar, and if carbohydrates are not consumed, it causes a drop in blood sugar, which triggers hunger and cravings for sugar. Aartificial sweeteners also dampen the "reward center" in your brain, which may lead you to indulge more calorie-rich, sweet-tasting food.


Artificial sweeteners disrupt the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, causing metabolic changes that can be a precursor to diabetes, according to Dr. Eran Elinav, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.


Substituting low calorie sweetener options for their regular-calorie versions results in a modest weight loss and may be a useful dietary tool to improve compliance with weight loss or weight maintenance plans. Low-calorie sweeteners and body weight and composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2014.

Acesulfame K sweetener
Acesulfame K is a controversial sugar substitute, commonly sold as Sweet One or Sunnette. Acesulfame K is found in Jell-O, nondairy creamers and Coca-Cola Zero, and has long been earmarked as a potential cancer-causing agent by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
     Acesulfame-K (potassium) is 200 times sweeter than sugar, with zero calories. Acesulfame-K was first approved by the FDA in 1988 for specific uses, including as a tabletop sweetener. The FDA approved the sweetener in 1998 for use in beverages. In December 2003, it was approved for general use in foods, but not in meat or poultry. Acesulfame-K can be found in baked goods, frozen desserts, candies, beverages, cough drops, and breath mints. Sunett is an artificial sweetener manufactured by Nutrinova, which has wide scale approval in over 100 countries around the world and can be used in all food applications in the U.S.

Aspartame sweetener came on the market in the 1980s
Aspartame sweetener is found in thousands of products -- sodas, chewing gum, dairy products and even many medicines. NutraSweet and Equal sweetener are popular brands of aspartame. Aspartame is found in Equal, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Diet Snapple, Sugar Free Kool-Aid, Breyers Light, General Foods Sugar-Free International Coffees. Questions have been raised about the safety of aspartame when Italian scientists found an increased risk of cancer in rodents exposed to aspartame throughout life.

Neotame Sweetener
Neotame is 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar, depending on how it's used in food, and has no calories. The FDA approved neotame in 2002 as a general-purpose sweetener in a wide variety of food products other than meat or poultry. Neotame has been approved for use in baked goods, soft drinks, chewing gum, frosting, frozen desserts, jams, jellies, gelatins, puddings, processed fruit and fruit juices, toppings, and syrups. Neotame is structurally similar to aspartame. "The potential release of phenylalanine from neotame is so limited that a warning for phenylketonuric-type individuals isn't warranted.

Saccharin sweetener

Saccharin sweetener - Research in the 1970s linked saccharin to bladder cancer in lab rats. Although the mechanism by which this occurred does not apply to people and no human risk was ever documented, worries about sugar substitutes in general have persisted. Saccharin is found in Sweet'N Low, Tab, Diet Coke from fountains.


Weight gain
In 2008, scientists at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, reported that rats that were fed food with the artificial sweetener saccharin consumed more calories and put on more weight and body fat than rats fed food with glucose, a natural sugar. Sweet foods may prompt the body to get ready to take in a lot of calories, but when sweetness in the form of artificial sweeteners is not followed by a large amount of calories, the body gets confused, which may lead to eating more or expending less energy than normal. Findings in animal studies may not be applicable to humans.

Sucralose - Splenda
Also know as the brand name Splenda - Sucralose is the active compound of the most commonly sold sweetener in the United States.  Sucralose is a no-calorie sweetener cropping up in new versions of Diet Coke and Pepsi One. Sucralose appears to be good for cooking and tastes less metallic than aspartame. Sucralose in rare cases can trigger a migraine headache. Splenda sweetener is found in Coke C2, Diet Coke with Splenda, Pepsi EDGE, Pepsi One, Diet 7Up.

     Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar on average and has no calories. Although sucralose is made from table sugar, it adds no calories because it isn't digested in the body. Sucralose was approved in 1998 for use in 15 food categories, including as a tabletop sweetener and for use in products such as beverages, chewing gum, frozen desserts, fruit juices, and gelatins. In 1999, the FDA allowed sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener in all foods. A sucralose supplier is Tate & Lyle.
2007 - The makers of the country's two most popular artificial sweeteners head to court with Equal claiming newcomer Splenda is misleading consumers by telling them the product is made from sugar. Merisant Co., the maker of Equal and NutraSweet, contends the maker of Splenda is guilty of false advertising with its "Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar" slogan.


Headache. 2006. Popular sweetner sucralose as a migraine trigger. Sucralose (trichlorogalactosucrose, or better known as Splenda) is an artificial sweetener from native sucrose that was approved by the FDA on April 1, 1998 (April Fool's Day). This observation of a potential causal relationship between sucralose and migraines may be important for physicians to remember this can be a possible trigger during dietary history taking.

Natural Sweeteners - alternative
Stevia is a sweetener from South America that is gradually becoming more popular in the US. It is one of my favorite sweeteners and I use a few drops daily to sweeten my herbal tea. I occasionally use it with cocoa to reduce the need for other caloric sweeteners. Stevia comes in powder, liquid or tablets.

Tagatose is a natural sweetener available from Arla Foods. It is created by converting galactose by raising pH. Galactose is naturally occurring in lactose, which is a sweetener found in milk, but it can also come from other sources. Tagatose has the same chemical composition as fructose, but it is quite different in both its physical and chemical characteristics.


Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are oligosaccharides used as an artificial or alternative sweetener..

Inulin and oligofructose are natural, soluble dietary fibers extracted from chicory root. These fibers can be used to replace the bulk and sweetness of sugar, while also improving the flavor profile of products sweetened with high intensity sweeteners.

Shugr is a product that takes advantage of the popular “blending” trend that is currently sweeping the sweetener market. According to Swiss Research, makers of Shugr, the product is made up of four main sweeteners. These include erythritol, maltodextrin, tagatose and sucralose.


Agave sweetener - Agave has become one of my favorite sweeteners since I discovered it at a health food store. Agave is not as thick as honey and it is not as sweet as honey, but it definitely has a wonderful sweet taste that can be mixed with any dessert where honey could be used.

Luo-Han-Guo extract sweetener is available as a supplement.


Erythritol has nearly no calories.

Alcohol sugars
Gum chewers may be familiar with this category, commercially called xylosweet, sorbital or xylitol. These sweeteners contain fewer calories than sugar and won't rot your teeth. On the downside, some diabetics have found too much of it caused their blood sugar to rise.


I'm still working on adding more information about the following sweeteners

Xylitol sweetener
Xylitol is a sugar substitute not only low in calories but may also help prevent dental caries.

High Fructose Corn Syrup


Honey can be a healthy sweetener if used in moderation

Date Sugar
Dextrose (Corn Sugar)

Lactose Milk Sugar
Lactose is a disaccharide that consists of galactose and glucose molecules.

Sorbitol Natural Sweetener
Sucanat (Organic Granulated Cane)

See sugar link for a discussion on raw sugar and Turbinado sugar.


Sweetener in diet soda
It's the feel of diet soda in the mouth that makes it taste crummy, not the flavor of the artificial sweetener. Consumers think they dislike the taste of aspartame and Splenda, but research shows that drinkers of diet and regular soda are also influenced by a subtle factor called mouth-feel. Mouth-feel refers to a food or beverage's body, fullness and thickness, the scientists say, and the presence of high-fructose corn syrup in regular soda and its absence in diet might be a distinguishing factor for discerning drinkers.

Pregnancy and artificial sweetener


Natural and artificial sweetener questions
Q. I am writing to you from a natural health magazine because I am currently researching the best natural sweeteners to use in recipes, i.e: malt syrups,
rice syrups (brown rice syrups), agave, maple syrup, fruit juice concentrate. I am wondering if it would be possible to speak with you about the benefits of using natural sweeteners, specifically their nutrient content and comparison with regular sugars and how the body breaks these down.
   A. Natural sweeteners are certainly a better option than refined sugar and some artificial sweeteners. However, they all have fructose which has four calories per gram, and has the potential to raise blood sugar levels. The advantage of natural sweeteners such as the ones you mention is that they also naturally have carotenoids, flavonoids, and other plant substances that have antioxidant properties which limits some the potential harm from the use of fructose. My personal feeling is that it is almost always a good idea to alternate different foods to expose the body to a variety of beneficial compounds and reduce the risk of allergy when the same food is eaten all the time. As to the use of natural sweeteners in recipes, this is an area outside of my expertise.

Q. I have two infections, one is C. difficile and the other one is candida. Now, with meds, I am also told to stay away from carbs and sugar. Which sweetener would be fine with this bacteria and fungus.
   A. Stevia has no calories and is a good option.


Q. I wonder if you have come across organic coconut sweetener which is made from 100% organic coconut sap, it has only a low glycemic index of 35. From the Philippines, it is now exported worldwide to several parts of the world like USA, Japan. Italy, France and Canada. Rich in natural vitamins and minerals, this product is now hailed as the wonder sugar of the new millennium. Not as sweet as artificial but blends well with coffee, cooking, juices, use as you would with sugar. CocoNatura is the brand behind this breakthrough product which is poised to benefits diabetics and health conscious individuals.  I am distributing this healthy product.
   A. This is the first time I have heard of organic coconut sweetener and CocoNatura. November 2008.


I am interested in knowing about these different sugar products:
Whey Low by Vivalac, have you heard yet what the test results from the University of Maryland were for this sugar? Do you believe the VivaLac® Inc test results are possible? Does it concur with the University of Maryland’s test results of the sugar “Whey Low”? So, would this be safe for Diabetics or does the Crystalline Fructose Sugar that VivaLac® Inc uses in its product cause one Triglycerides to go up and your liver to store fat? What would be a safe amount to use? Do you know it’s true Nutritional value is for like 1 tablespoon. How many carbs and calories are there to 1 tablespoon per serving?

Trehalose by Hayasbibara, in Japan, Is now being used in London and is considered a safe sugar and healthy sugar. Swanson.com also carries a brand of Trehalose, but I cannot find a out if the Trehalose the get is made in Japan or if it comes from China. I heard the Treahalose created in Japan was Superior to the Chinese brands, because of inconstancies found in the Chinese Brand. Would Trehalose be a better sugar to use along with perhaps Luo Han Guo in baking. Would this be a safe sugar for Diabetics? And from what I’ve read it’s more of a healing sugar rather than causing ones triglycerides to go up and it won’t store liver in your fat? Is this what you have heard. What is your opinion, is this safer to use in bake goods. Also, Do you know it’s true Nutritional value for like 1 tablespoon or 1 Teaspoon? How many carbs and calories are there to 1 tablespoon or 1 teaspoon per serving?

Vegetable Glycerine by NOW FOODS, Is this a safe sugar substitute? I really don’t see anything harmful, but not everything is posted on the Web. I’ve had a hard time finding it’s true Nutritional value for like 1 tablespoon or 1 Teaspoon? How many carbs and calories are there to 1 tablespoon or 1 teaspoon per serving? Anyway, these are the sugars that I have been mixing together to make 1 cup of sugar in baked goods, when I do bake. I do not use just one. Luo Han Guo, Stevia, Oligofrutoise by Sweet Perfection, Xyitol, Erythitol and Coconut Palm Sugar. I would really like to trade some of the Alcohol Sugars and only use a small amount only because it causes bloating for my husband and I and Oligofrutoise also has to be used in small amount for the same reason. And my husband really doesn’t like the bitter taste of Stevia, even in the smallest amount. So, I am trying to look for some better replacement for making a mix of 1 cup of sugar for baking cookies and cakes, in the future.