- Food and diet
- Eating a balanced diet
- 8 tips for healthy eating
- The Eatwell Guide
- Food labels
- Food labelling terms
- Reference intakes on food labels
- Starchy foods and carbohydrates
- Dairy and alternatives
- Meat in your diet
- Fish and shellfish
- The healthy way to eat eggs
- Beans and pulses
- Water, drinks and your health
- Eating processed foods
- Why 5 A Day?
- What counts?
- 5 A Day portion sizes
- 5 A Day tips
- 5 A Day FAQs
- Fat: the facts
- Salt: the facts
- Sugar: the facts
- Top sources of added sugar
- What does 100 calories look like?
- Red meat and the risk of bowel cancer
- What is a Mediterranean diet?
- 20 tips to eat well for less
- How to prepare and cook food safely
- How to store food and leftovers
- 10 ways to prevent food poisoning
- Why you should never wash raw chicken
- Cooking turkey
- How to wash fruit and vegetables
- The truth about sweeteners
- Sprouted seeds safety advice
- The vegetarian diet
- The vegan diet
- Vegetarian and vegan mums-to-be
- Vegetarian and vegan diets Q&A
- Recipes and tips
- Healthy breakfasts
- Surprising 100-calorie snacks
- 8 healthy eating tips
- How to eat more fibre
- Healthy food swaps
- Healthy breakfast cereals
- How to eat less saturated fat
- Tips for a lower salt diet
- How to cut down on sugar
- Healthier takeaways
- Food and drinks for sport
- Healthy eating for teens
- Digestive health
The truth about sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are low-calorie or calorie-free chemical substances used instead of sugar to sweeten foods and drinks.
They're found in thousands of products, from drinks, desserts and ready meals, to cakes, chewing gum and toothpaste.
Sweeteners approved for use in the UK include:
- acesulfame K
Both Cancer Research UK and the US National Cancer Institute have said sweeteners do not cause cancer.
"Large studies looking at people have now provided strong evidence that artificial sweeteners are safe for humans," states Cancer Research UK.
All sweeteners in the EU undergo a rigorous safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before they can be used in food and drink.
As part of the evaluation process, the EFSA sets an acceptable daily intake (ADI), which is the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day over the course of your lifetime.
You do not need to keep track of how much sweetener you consume each day, as our eating habits are factored in when specifying where sweeteners can be used.
Are sweeteners healthy?
Sweeteners may be safe, but are they healthy? Food manufacturers claim sweeteners help prevent tooth decay, control blood sugar levels and reduce our calorie intake.
EFSA has approved the health claims made about xylitol, sorbitol and sucralose, among others, in relation to oral health and controlling blood sugar levels.
Dietitian Emma Carder states: "Research into sweeteners shows they're perfectly safe to eat or drink on a daily basis as part of a healthy diet."
She also says they're a really useful alternative for people with diabetes who need to watch their blood sugar levels while still enjoying their favourite foods.
"Like sugar, sweeteners provide a sweet taste, but what sets them apart is that, after consumption, they do not increase blood sugar levels," she says.
It's been suggested that the use of artificial sweeteners may have a stimulating effect on appetite and, therefore, may play a role in weight gain and obesity.
But research into sweeteners and appetite stimulation is inconsistent. Also, there's little evidence from longer term studies to show that sweeteners cause weight gain.