Nutrition Experts

Low-calorie sweetner safety

Question:

I received an e–mail message with warnings about low–calorie sweeteners. Are these sweeteners safe to consume?

Answer:

You can rest assured that it's safe to put that packet of low–calorie sweetener in your coffee or enjoy a diet soft drink.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved seven low–calorie sweeteners for use in the United States—acesulfame K, aspartame, luo han guo fruit extract (also called monk fruit extract), neotame, saccharin, stevia, and sucralose. These sweeteners were deemed safe by the FDA following an extensive review of scientific research. Major health organizations such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Diabetes Association also support their safety.

Low–calorie sweeteners can help trim calories by replacing some or all the sugar or other calorie–containing sweeteners in foods and beverages––a boon for weight management.

Low–calorie sweeteners also are helpful for people with diabetes, who need to monitor the amount of carbohydrates they eat. Sugar is a type of carbohydrate, so choosing a yogurt or soft drink made with a low–calorie sweetener instead of sugar may allow someone with diabetes to "spend" their carbohydrate allowance on other foods or beverages.

So, why do scary e–mail messages about health risks from consuming low–calorie sweeteners keep making the rounds? It's anybody's guess why, or even who's behind many of these messages. But they've joined the ranks of "urban legends"—false information that often circulates in cyberspace.