A limited number of non-nutritive artificial sweeteners are permitted for use in the UK and the US but there are many more available around the world. They have virtually no calories and do not affect blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. The main concern is their safety. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates artificial sweeteners as food additives and as such the FDA in approving these low calorie sweeteners also publish an acceptable daily intake (ADI) considered safe for each sweetener. The inference therefore is that they are safe and as a result these sweeteners are used in a variety of manufactured sugar free low calorie foods and drinks.

Aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal) is 200 times as sweet as sugar but it does not taste exactly like sugar. Despite many controversial research reports aspartame continues to be widely available in the US and EU markets. Sucralose (Splenda) is 600 times as sweet as sugar and unlike many other sweeteners, it is stable when heated and can therefore be used in baked foods. Controversy here surfaced regarding false advertising claims. The advertising slogan ‘made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar’ was banned by the French courts.

Saccharin (Sweet’N Low) is about 400 times as sweet as sugar but is said to have a bitter aftertaste. Concern about saccharin resulted after it was shown to cause bladder cancer in rats although the mechanism by which it does this is not found in humans. Saccharin continues to be approved by the FDA and used in many other countries while there are other countries that have exerted an outright ban. Acesulfame K (Sweet One) is approved for use in the US and the UK and is often used in the diet soft drinks industry. Cyclamate is also permitted in the UK and in many other countries but not in the US. The FDA banned the sale of cyclamate after research studies indicated a possible link with bladder cancer.