Beat Your Sugar Cravings Part 2: 5 Artificial Sweeteners to Avoid

This is part two of my 5-day series on beating  your sugar cravings.

Artificial sweeteners (chemical sweeteners) have been controversial since they were first introduced on the market in the 1950s, and research shows they are associated with many dangerous side effects.

These artificial sweeteners were first introduced to satisfy consumers’ sweet tooth. At the time, these artificial sweeteners with zero calories seemed like good alternatives to refined sugars and natural sweeteners. However, we are finding the side effects aren’t worth it. These fake sweeteners cause symptoms that range from headaches and migraines to weight gain and even chronic diseases.

Artificial sweeteners, also known as sugar substitutes or non-nutritive sweeteners, are substances that are used instead of sucrose (table sugar) to sweeten foods and beverages. A sugar substitute is a food additive that provides a sweet taste like sugar while containing significantly less food energy. Some sugar substitutes are produced by nature, and others produced synthetically.

Note: Foods from the food groups such as grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat, and healthy oils, are considered nutritive because they provide nourishment. Products that are added and do not provide any nourishment can be considered non-nutritive.

Artificial sweeteners are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Food Additives Amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was passed by Congress in 1958, and it requires the FDA to approve food additives, including artificial sweeteners, before they can be made available for sale in the United States.

All artificial sweeteners are not created equal.

The FDA has approved these five artificial sweeteners: aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame K, and neotame.


1. Aspartame is sold under the brand names, NutraSweet and Equal. It is considered the most dangerous of all the artificial sweeteners. Three key studies funded by an independent lab (rather than by a maker of aspartame) found that the sweetener caused lymphomas, leukemias, kidney, and other cancers in rats and mice.

Aspartame is of particular concern because it contains phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol – three well-recognized neurotoxins. These are some symptoms associated with the consumption of aspartame: headaches, nausea, dizziness, hearing loss, tinnitus, insomnia, eye problems, hallucinations, memory loss, slurred speech, depression, mood changes, anxiety attacks, hyperactivity, heart arrhythmia, gastrointestinal disorders, seizures, skin lesions, muscle cramps, joint pains, fatigue, menstrual irregularities, chest pain, increased appetite, and numbness and tingling of extremities.


2. Saccharin is sold under the name Sweet’N Low. Saccharin is over 300 times sweeter than sugar. Saccharin has been linked to a higher risk of cancer. In 1977, the Food and Drug Administration proposed banning saccharin, but Congress intervened and permitted its use with a warning notice.


3. Sucralose is sold under the name Splenda. Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar and widely used, often together with aspartame or ace-K.

Acesulfame K

4. Acesulfame K (or acesulfame potassium) is known as Sunett and Sweet One. It is produced by Hoechst, a German chemical company. It is widely used in foods, beverages, and pharmaceutical products around the world. It is a calorie-free sweetener found in sugar-free products.


5. Neotame is produced by NutraSweet. It is the most recent addition to FDA’s list of approved artificial sweeteners. Neotame is about 40 times sweeter. This artificial sweetener is used in diet soft drinks and low-calorie foods. Neotame is a cousin of aspartame. Center for Science in the Public Interest ranks it as safe; however, they note that it hasn’t been tested by independent researchers.

soda aisle market

Before you consume artificial sweeteners

A 2018 study published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases revealed that the artificial sweetener, sucralose (Splenda) and maltodextrin, intensifies gut inflammation in mice that carry Crohn-like disease.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there was no clear evidence that the artificial sweeteners on the market in the United States are related to cancer risk in humans. However, several studies performed on laboratory rats link aspartame and saccharin to cancer.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), cautions everyone to avoid aspartame, saccharin and acesulfame K because they are unsafe consumed in large amounts.  They are also very poorly tested and not worth the risk.

One more thing to take into consideration

Artificial sweeteners may play tricks on you. Research suggests that they may prevent you from associating sweetness with caloric intake. As a result, you may crave more sweets or choose sweet food over nutritious food, and gain weight.


To summarize, it is best to avoid these artificial sweeteners as much as possible. It is a good idea to replace sodas with healthy alternatives such as water – add slices of fruit to it, tea, or coconut water.

water with kiwi

If you would like more information on what foods and drinks contain these artificial sweeteners, refer to

Part 3 of this series will go over natural sweeteners.


Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost?

“Aspartame: The Real Story” by Annemarie Colbin

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