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Side-by-Side Comparisons of Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial Sweeteners Explained

There are so many artificial sweeteners out there that it's hard to keep them straight. And with all the information swirling around about the safety of each one, it can be hard to know which to choose. If you're a fan of sugar substitutes, here's a list of the artificial sweeteners and the big pros and cons of each.

Acesulfame Potassium (Sunett and Sweet One)

  • Calories: 0
  • History: was approved by the FDA as a general-purpose sweetener in 2002
  • General Info: 200 times sweeter than regular sugar; the body can't break it down, so it's excreted from the body unchanged,
  • Pros: no evidence of its connection to an increase in cancer risk or affect to blood-sugar levels; approved for consumption by pregnant women in moderation
  • Cons: has a bitter taste on its own; the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest believes that studies on this sweetener were poorly done and that they didn't test its potential cancer-causing risks
  • Used for baking? Yes

Aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal)

  • Calories: 4 calories per gram
  • History: in 1996, the FDA approved its use in foods and beverages
  • General Info: 80 to 200 times sweeter than regular sugar; 70 percent of all aspartame is used in diet sodas; The FDA has set the acceptable daily intake (ADI) at 50 mg per kilogram of body weight which translates to about four (12-oz.) cans of diet soda per day;
  • Pros: approved for consumption by pregnant women, as long as they follow the FDA's guidelines; FDA sees no connection between aspartame and cancer
  • Cons: some people may have a sensitivity to aspartame and may experience headaches, dizziness, mood changes, or skin reactions after consuming it
  • Used for baking? No


Keep reading for info about saccharin, Stevia, and xylitol.

Saccharin (Sweet'N Low)

  • Calories: 0
  • History: the FDA proposed a ban on it in 1977 when lab rats that were fed huge amounts contracted bladder cancer. The ban was never enacted though, and the warning label was dropped in 2000
  • General Info: 300 times sweeter than regular sugar; it's a molecule made from petroleum
  • Pros: since 1981 government reports had listed it as an "anticipated human carcinogen," but it was removed from the list in 2000
  • Cons: few studies have been done regarding its effects on infants and children, although its use in formula may cause irritability and muscle dysfunction, so they should consume it in small quantities or not at all; although the FDA has not imposed any limitations, studies show saccharin crosses the placenta and may remain in fetal tissue, so pregnant women are advised to use saccharin sparingly or not at all
  • Used for baking? Yes

Sorbitol and Mannitol

  • Calories: 2.6 calories per gram
  • History: the FDA approved them in 1971 and designates them as "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS)
  • General Info: both are sugar alcohols that occur naturally in fruits but are usually derived from corn syrup
  • Pros: absorbed by the body slowly; combines well with other ingredients; no evidence that it has adverse health effects on humans
  • Cons: may cause digestive upset or have laxative effect when consumed in large quantities
  • Used for baking? Yes


  • Calories: 0
  • History: Stevia leaves are not yet approved by the FDA, but highly purified Rebaudioside A (derived from Stevia leaves) is considered GRAS
  • General Info: Stevia extract is made from the Stevia plant, which is native to South America; has been used in South America for centuries and in Japan for the past 30 years
  • Pros: it's naturally derived although some argue that it is an artificial sweetener since commercially made Stevia extract involves a refining process; some research shows it can lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels; safe for pregnant women
  • Cons: since Stevia is sold as a dietary supplement, the FDA does not regulate it
  • Used for baking? Yes

Sucralose (Splenda)

  • Calories: 0
  • History: approved by the FDA in 1999
  • General Info: contains maltodextrin to bulk it up, is 600 times sweeter than regular sugar
  • Pros: after 110 studies and over 20 years of research, the FDA concluded that sucralose has no toxic or carcinogenic effects and poses no reproductive or neurological risks to people
  • Cons: bulking agents add about 12 calories per tablespoon of Splenda (although the nutritional info doesn't list these calories)
  • Used for baking? Yes, yet has an artificial taste


  • Calories: 2.4 calories per gram
  • History: approved by the FDA in 1963 as a food additive
  • General Info: can be derived from various berries, oats, and mushrooms, as well as corn husks, but commercially is made from xylan, which is extracted from hardwoods or corncobs; used as a diabetic sweetener
  • Pros: it can actually benefit the teeth; doesn't affect insulin levels; has been shown to reduce the incidence of acute middle ear infection
  • Cons: may have a laxative effect; is a life-threatening toxin to dogs; consuming extremely high doses for long periods (over three years) may cause tumors, safety for pregnant and nursing moms is unknown
  • Used for baking? Yes

Approved sugar substitutes have gone through extensive studies to get the OK from the FDA, and there have been no widespread claims of health issues regarding any of these sweeteners. Even so, does the fact that one packet of real sugar contains only 11 calories (four calories per gram) make you want to stick to regular sugar?

— Additional reporting by Leta Shy

Source: Flickr user Carolyn Coles

Join The Conversation
GretchenCline20762 GretchenCline20762 3 years
WOW, I am amazed at this list! Anything chemically manufactured is dangerous! The only healthy sugars a person should use are Agave Nectar, Maple Syrup (100% not a mix with anything else), Honey (real local, not grocery store bought), Sucanat, and Stevia! Anything else IS linked to Cancer and many other health issues.
foodzen foodzen 4 years
Thank you for a simple yet complete post and terrific links for more information regarding sweeteners.
amber512 amber512 5 years
I love stevia!! \u00a0Ever since I read that Splenda is chlorinated it has freaked me out and it's not even calorie-free? \u00a0What's the point of it then?
Dare-You-To Dare-You-To 5 years
Yep, I have little use for artificial sweeteners, especially because I don't drink coffee. \u00a0But when baking (which is OFTEN), I prefer to use the real deal sugar.\u00a0
slindensmith slindensmith 5 years
i don't use any of them...i use coconut sugar, honey, agave or maple syrup
Hootie Hootie 9 years
I love Splenda!
Giasbash6260 Giasbash6260 9 years
Stevia is amazing!!!! and I chew Orbit gum so I guess I am ok with Aspartame! I do sometimes drink Splenda Flavored drinks but that is pretty rare - oh well - my diet is SOOO restricted as it is that I think I will be ok?
cardioqueen88 cardioqueen88 9 years
i am strongly against all of these, but what about stevia????
rosey_y rosey_y 9 years
Stevia for the win! Or else I just use the real thing, but try to make it raw or brown sugar where I can.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I use Equal (aspartame) in my coffee, but that's about all the Equal I eat in a day. I'm not worried about it because aspartame breaks down into two naturally-occuring amino acids that are easily processed by the body. They've done studies showing that you can OD on aspartame at extremely high doses, but you'd really have to drink a LOT of it to get that much.
rpenner rpenner 9 years
I use Splenda in my coffee but real sugar when backing. After reading this I think I might just use real sugar all around!
bchicgrl bchicgrl 9 years
The only thing I consume with fake sugar is my morning yogurt which has Nutrasweet in it. Splenda and all the others make me feel crappy and I can taste the difference and its just gross to me.
lemuse20 lemuse20 9 years
I admit I use Splenda everyday, and I do think twice everytime I use it... I know it's likely not good for me, and my sis-in-law tries to get me to stop using it, buuuut I'm on a diet :-/
michlny michlny 9 years
love stevia! wish they'd make foods/drinks w/ it! I hear Coke wants to but FDA is giving them a tough time :(.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
I'm sorta annoyed that Splenda that 12 calories per tablespoon, especially since sugar has 15 per teaspoon. I mean, I guess that's still a difference of 30 calories, and not a big deal, but I just feel like they should list it on the bag, since they're billing it as "zero calories."
Pnut Pnut 9 years
I'm all about the stevia! It has o calories, derived from a plant leaf (i.e. all natural) and has a negligible affect on your blood sugar levels. Although when baking I use both splenda and stevia together because too much stevia can be a bit bitter.
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 9 years
I've read too many bad things about artificial sweeteners. For my cheesecake that I typically make I've been using a sugar/honey combo to sweeten, but I want to get a sweetener like Stevia or another natural sweetener.
lcterp lcterp 9 years
I rarely ever get anything with sweeteners b/c they make me absolutely starving. I've tried the K2O protein water w/ Spenda and intead of taking the edge off of hunger it makes me crave anything. I have to go with real sugar too.
ElectroPopTart ElectroPopTart 9 years
The only one I consume is the sorbitol found in gum. I used to be a diet coke WHORE and a splenda WHORE, but no way, never again... I gave up all that November 1, 2007 and never looked back. I was drinking upwards of a liter of diet coke a day!!! And at restaurants, I was getting diet coke refills four or FIVE times per meal!
Brooklynbee Brooklynbee 9 years
If you want to read a really interesting book about artificial sweeteners (well it's also about family drama, and Brooklyn, and the mob, and the immigrant experience, and so many other things!) read the book Sweet and Low: A Family Story by Rich Cohen.
EmyAnne EmyAnne 9 years
Yay for REAL sugar, made of real digestible food! I'm totally with ya on this Fit... real sugar is so much better for you. All this fake stuff is man-made, the body doesn't digest it, it just stores up inside on your organs and stuff.... it causes so much damage in the long run! I have an serious auto-immune disease (Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis) that my doctors believe was caused by my mom consuming this crap when she was pregnant. i could go on and on about all the bad things these sweeteners do but i don't need to preach....
DreaAST DreaAST 9 years
i always use this stuff. i mix up which ones i use.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I can't use this stuff...
lilxmissxmolly lilxmissxmolly 9 years
i use raw sugar b/c fake sweeteners scare me.
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