The Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners

Posted by Luisa de Luca on

Is Your Sugar Safe?

bowl of sugar

We’ve learned that too much of a good thing often turns out to be a bad thing. Added sugar is a great example of this principle. It can cause a number of health problems ranging from cancer to blood pressure, but sugar is most famous for its negative effects on obesity. In answer to this, many people turned to artificial sweeteners. These low-calorie sweeteners became popular, even amidst accusations they cause cancer and are even worse than too much real sugar. So what is the truth about artificial sweeteners? Take a look at this side-by-side comparison to find out:


Acesulfame Potassium

Aliases: Sunett, Sweet One, Ace-K

Where it’s found: More than 4,000 products[i] including soda, gelatin, gum, frozen desserts, mouthwash, and toothpaste.

What is it made of: A chemical derivative of acetoacetic acid. It contains the carcinogen methyle chloride[ii].

History: A German chemist with a habit of tasting his experiments found it in 1960[iii]. It came on the scene as an FDA-approved sweetener in 1988[iv].

Calories: 0

Sweetness: 200 times sweeter than sugar

General Facts: The body can’t break it down, so it goes out the same way it went in. This sweetener is often used in tandem with saccharin (Sweet’N Low)[v].

Side effects: Studies found Ace-K to cause a variety of tumors in rodent subjects, in addition to causing other fatal illnesses like leukemia[vi]. Other risks (due to the presence of methyle chloride) are headaches, nausea, mental confusion, liver and kidney diseases, and cancer[vii].


artificial sweetener packets



Aliases: NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, Equal-Measure

Where it’s found: In over 6,000 products[viii], most commonly: drinks, gum, yogurt, cough drops

What is it made of: Aspartame is comprised of aspartic acid and a methyl ester of phenylalanine[ix].

History: Aspartame was an accidental discovery made during experiments to find a peptic ulcer drug in 1965[x]. It became FDA-approved in 1996

Calories: 4 per gram

Sweetness: 80-200 times sweeter than sugar

Facts: 70% of aspartame is used in diet soda[xi].

Side effects: It isn’t uncommon for people to have sensitivities to this sweetener causing headaches, dizziness, mood changes, and even skin reactions[xii]. In fact, of people with chronic migraines, 11% could trace the trigger back to consuming aspartame[xiii]. Other associated side effects are panic attacks, hallucinations, dizziness, nervousness, nausea, and depression[xiv]. Another study suggests aspartame may even increase hunger[xv].



Aliases: Neotame

Where it’s found: Some drinks, dairy, frozen desserts, puddings, fruit juices

What is it made of: Neotame is derived from aspartame[xvi].

History: Became FDA-approved in 2002

Calories: 0

Sweetness: 8,000 times sweeter than sugar

Facts: The newest sweetener on the market, Neotame still hasn’t made it into every day use.

Side effects: This sweetener came on the market very quietly, and any studies done about it have not been made available to the public[xvii].


sweet n low



Aliases: Sweet’N Low, Sugar Twin

Where it’s found: Drinks, canned goods, candy, many diet foods.

What is it made of: It’s made out of a molecule derived from petroleum[xviii].

History: One of the first artificial sweeteners, saccharin was discovered by accident in 1879 when a chemist didn’t wash his hands after work and was surprised to find his bread tasted sweet. He traced it back to a spill in the lab[xix]. By 1907 saccharin was being marketed to diabetics as a sweetener[xx], though it didn’t become popular until the 1950s[xxi].

Calories: 0

Sweetness: 300 times sweeter than sugar.

Facts: Saccharin was almost banned in 1977 after a study showed lab rats who ate it died of bladder cancer[xxii].

Side effects: Some studies have observed an association between saccharin and irritability and muscle dysfunction in children. Because the sweetener can also cross the placenta, pregnant women should limit or avoid saccharin[xxiii]. It’s a weak carcinogen also capable of causing allergic reactions including headaches, breathing problems, skin issues, and diarrhea[xxiv].




Aliases: Splenda, Sukrana, SucraPlus, Candys, Cukren, Nevella

Where it’s found: 4,500 products[xxv], including many diet drinks and foods, fruit drinks, canned fruit, and syrups.

What is it made of: Chlorinated sucrose. In other words, it’s sucrose (sugar) that has been treated with a whole range of chemicals to make it anything but natural. The use of chlorine (a known carcinogen) in the process is what makes it dangerous.

History: Scientists trying to create a new insecticide discovered sucralose in 1976[xxvi]. It was approved by the FDA in 1999.

Calories: 0

Sweetness: 600 times sweeter than sugar.

Facts: Maltodextrin is used to bulk up the volume of sucralose, and this adds about 12 calories per tablespoon of Splenda[xxvii] – something the nutrition label doesn’t tell you. This sweetener is also one of the only artificial options that can withstand heat so you can bake and cook with it[xxviii].

Side effects: Some research suggests sucralose negatively impacts the immune system[xxix]. Research showed it could cause shrinkage in the thymus gland and enlargement of the liver and kidneys[xxx]. Short-term studies have shown sucralose could cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, hives, swelling, wheezing, cough, chest pains, palpitations, mood swings, and depression[xxxi].


All in all, artificial sweeteners in general come under a lot of fire. The debate continues, and the truth is additional research and long-term studies need to be conducted to find out how consistent use affects humans in the long run. That said, there’s enough evidence compiled against these sweeteners that make them unattractive. One of the simplest but most prevalent is the proof that artificial sweeteners overall increase cravings and cause weight gain[xxxii].


At the end of the day, you’re better off sticking to real sugar in smaller quantities. Replacing natural sugar with an artificial sweetener isn’t going to fix a sugar addiction. The best health strategy you can have is re-training your taste buds to be happier with smaller amounts of natural sugar (or healthy sugar substitues). Train your eyes to read nutrition labels and find sneaky artificial sweeteners, especially in health and diet products.


Unlike many of our competitors, we don’t believe in using artificial sweeteners in our products at 310 Nutrition. Our Healthy Meal Replacement shakes are sweetened using organic stevia and monk fruit, two natural zero-calorie sweeteners that don’t have the potential side-effects of artificial sweeteners.





































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