The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved five low-calorie sweeteners for use in a variety of foods. The FDA has established an “acceptable daily intake” (ADI) for each sweetener. This is the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day over a lifetime. ADIs are intended to be about 100 times less than the smallest amount that might cause health concerns.
Estimated ADI equivalent**
OK for cooking?
Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)
50 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg)
18 to 19 cans of diet cola
Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, SugarTwin)
5 mg per kg
9 to 12 packets of sweetener
Acesulfame K (Sunett, Sweet One)
15 mg per kg
30 to 32 cans of diet lemon-lime soda***
5 mg per kg
6 cans of diet cola***
18 mg a day
No consumer products available yet in the U.S.
*FDA-established acceptable daily intake (ADI) limit per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. **Product-consumption equivalent for a 150-pound person. ***These products usually contain more than one type of sweetener.
Safety of artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are often the subject of stories in the popular press and on the Internet, claiming that they cause a variety of health problems, including cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, however, there’s no scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States cause cancer. And numerous studies confirm that artificial sweeteners are safe for the general population.
Aspartame does carry a cautionary note, however. It isn’t safe for people who have the rare hereditary disease phenylketonuria (PKU). Products that contain aspartame must carry a PKU warning on the label.
Still empty calories
Just removing sugar from cookies and chocolates doesn’t make them low-calorie, low-fat foods. If you eat too many, you’ll still get more calories than you need, and you may not get enough nutritious foods. Unlike fruits, vegetables and whole grains, sugar-free soft drinks, candy and desserts often provide few - if any - beneficial nutrients.
Use artificial sweeteners sensibly. It’s OK to substitute a diet soda for a regular soda, for example, but diet soda shouldn’t be the only beverage you drink.