Your Body

All About Artificial Sweeteners

Get this: Each American consumes 31 teaspoons of sugar a day—that adds up to over 100 pounds of sugar a year! Our excessive sugar intake has been linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, unruly behavior and cavities. In an attempt to trim down sugar intake, Americans have turned to sugar alternatives like artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. The increased presence of these sugar substitutes in our food supply has spurred concerns about their safety and nutritional value. Can sugar substitutes allow us to have our cake and eat it, too, or are they just another marketing gimmick created to lighten our wallets at the expense of our health?

Sugar in Disguise

Artificial sweeteners provide sweetness with limited-to-no calories, and dentists love them because they don’t contribute to tooth decay. The American Heart Association encourages people with diabetes to eat artificial sweeteners, and the American Diabetes Association considers sugar substitutes “free foods” since they have very few, if any, calories and keep blood-sugar levels from rising. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of five artificial sweeteners—sucralose, acesulfame K, neotame, aspartame and saccharin—but approval doesn’t always translate to a clean bill of health. Here we’ll discuss the five sweeteners in order of safety—number one having the best track record and number five being the most questionable.

#1 Sucralose

What Is It? Sucralose, better known by its trade name Splenda, is the only artificial sweetener made from real sugar. It tastes sweet and moves through the digestive tract without being changed or absorbed.

How Sweet Is It? 600 times sweeter than sugar

Claim to Fame: Sucralose has a good shelf life and doesn’t degrade when exposed to heat. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that sucralose does not affect blood-glucose levels, making it a good option for diabetics.

Potential Problems: To date, no adverse side effects have been linked to sucralose.

Where It’s Found: Sucralose has been approved as a general-purpose sweetener for all foods and beverages. It’s marketed as a tabletop sweetener and for use in numerous products such as Diet Rite, Diet V8 Splash, Propel Water, Swiss Miss No Sugar Added.

Maximum Daily Intake: Six milligrams or four cans of diet soda for a 120 lb person.

#2 Acesulfame K (Potassium)

What Is It? Acesulfame K, better known as Sunett, is a highly stable, crystalline sweetener with a chemical structure similar to saccharin.

How Sweet Is It? 200 times sweeter than sugar

Claim to Fame: Acesulfame K has an excellent shelf life and does not break down when cooked or baked. Most importantly for diabetics, acesulfame K does not raise blood-sugar levels.

Potential Problems: It has a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Where It’s Found: Diet Pepsi Max, Coca-Cola Zero, Fresca, Diet Coke with Splenda, Trident gum, Wrigley’s Spearmint gum, some SoBe products and sugarfree Jell-O. In carbonated drinks it’s almost always used in conjunction with aspartame or sucralose.

Maximum Daily Intake: 25 milligrams or 20 cans of soda for a 120 lb person

#3 Neotame

What Is It? Neotame is made by the makers of aspartame, but is much sweeter and more stable.

How Sweet Is It? 8,000 times sweeter than sugar

Claim to Fame: No adverse effects have been reported when individuals ingest neotame at the levels commonly found in foods. Since only a tiny bit of neotame is required to achieve maximal sweetness, it’s economical for manufacturers. It’s extremely stable, allowing for a long shelf life.

Potential Problems: It’s too early to tell since the use of neotame is not as widespread as other artificial sweeteners.

Where It’s Found: Neotame can be found in baked goods, soft drinks, gum, frosting, frozen desserts, jams, jellies, gelatins, puddings, processed fruit and fruit juices, beverages, toppings and syrups.

#4 Aspartame

What Is It? Aspartame is composed of two amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. When combined, they have a pleasant, sweet taste.

How Sweet Is It? 200 times sweeter than sugar

Claim to Fame: Aspartame is the most widely used and studied food additive. It’s best known as the main ingredient in Equal and NutraSweet. Unlike many other artificial sweeteners, aspartame does not have a bitter aftertaste.

Potential Problems: Methanol and formaldehyde—which have poisonous properties—are generated during the breakdown of aspartame, but more than 100 toxicology and clinical studies have confirmed aspartame’s safety. Still, along with saccharin, aspartame remains a very controversial artificial sweetener.

Where It’s Found: NutraSweet, Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, Carefree Sugarless Chewing Gum, Dreyer’s (Edy’s) No Sugar Added Light Ice Cream

Maximum Daily Intake: 18 milligrams or 12 cans of diet soda for a 120 lb person

#5 Saccharin

What Is It? Saccharin is the granddaddy of all sugar substitutes. It was accidentally discovered in the late 19th century by two scientists who didn’t wash their hands for lunch while working with coal tar. This led them to notice a sweet taste on their hands. Later this substance became known as saccharin.

How Sweet Is It? 450 times sweeter than sugar

Claim to Fame: Saccharin is most well-known for its presence in Sweet ’N Low. Due to its long shelf life, saccharin is often used in diet fountain sodas, and its stability at high temperatures makes it an option for sweetening baked goods. Saccharin can also be made cheaply, making it economical for manufacturers.

Potential Problems: In 1977, the FDA proposed a ban on saccharin due to concerns about rats that developed bladder cancer after receiving high doses of saccharin (in amounts comparable to 800 diet sodas a day). In 2000, after studies revealed no negative effects of saccharin use in humans, saccharin was removed from the National Toxicology Program’s blacklist of suspected cancer-causing substances. Currently, moderate saccharin use is considered acceptable.

Where It’s Found: Saccharin is the primary ingredient in Sweet’N Low. It can be found in diet soft drinks like Tab and some sugar free gums like Trident.

Maximum Daily Intake: 12 milligrams or nine packets of artificial sugar sweetener for a 120 lb person

Sugar Smarts

Any substance can lead to health problems if consumed in large quantities. Furthermore, foods high in real sugar or sugar substitutes tend to contribute little or nothing when it comes to vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. Sugar substitutes also take the place of more nutritious foods, so they should be consumed in moderation. One or two foods containing artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols daily should be fine, but you should choose foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.

Karlyn Grimes holds a dual master’s degree in nutrition and exercise physiology from Boston University, and is a faculty member in the nutrition and biology departments at Simmons College. Her nutrition and exercise book series for children is being published this spring. Visit

Dance News
Photo by Jayme Thornton

Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.

Keep reading... Show less

Leap! National Dance Competition offers dancers of all skill levels an opportunity to showcase their talents in an event where the focus is on fun and competing is just a bonus!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer

Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
The School at Jacob's Pillow's contemporary program auditions (photo by Karli Cadel, courtesy Jacob's Pillow)

Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.

Keep reading... Show less
Screenshot via YouTube

Look out, 'cause here they come!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.

In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.

The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."

Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Leah Morrison in Trisha Brown's If You Couldn't See Me, in which the soloist never faces the audience (photo by Julia Cervantes, courtesy Trisha Brown Dance Company)

Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.

She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.

Keep reading... Show less
Blankenbuehler (far left) with the rest of the "Hamilton" creative team

So book your tickets to Tulsa already, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Your Body
Amanda LaCount showing off her skills (screenshot via YouTube)

There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.

Keep reading... Show less
Watch This
Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB

Mark your calendars, bunheads! On Monday, January 29th, at 2:45 PM (EST)/11:45 AM (PST), Pacific Northwest Ballet will be streaming a live rehearsal of Act II of Kent Stowell's Swan Lake.

Keep reading... Show less


Want to Be on Our Cover?





Get Dance Spirit in your inbox