Artificial sugar. Good or bad for you?

Let’s talk all things artificial sugar today!

So much to know, let’s break it down from the beginning.

First off, what are artificial sugars/sweeteners?

An artificial sugar is just one type of sugar substitute.

They are known as intense sweeteners because they can be anywhere from 200 to 13,000 times sweeter than regular sugar!


FYI, regular table sugar is known as sucrose.

Artificial sugars almost contain no calories- making them an attractive alternative use for regular sugar, especially if you have that notorious sweet tooth.

You can find artificial sugars in a variety of processed food including sodas, baked foods, candy, canned foods, jams/jellies, puddings and dairy products.

You’ve probably seen the names of a few artificial sugars around such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin.

But there are more such as acesulfame potassium, cyclamate and neotame.

You may be one of those people using those cute little colorful sugar packets such as Sweet’N Low, Splenda and Equal at cafes to decrease the calories in your double shot whole-milk latte.

Yep, those babies are artificial sugar:  Sweet’N Low contains the artificial sugar saccharin, Splenda contains the artificial sugar sucralose and Equal contains the artificial sugar aspartame.

Artificial sugars can also be used for home baking and cooking as well but are usually required in smaller amounts since they do not carry any bulk or volume like regular sugar.

Okay, so why do they appear to be all that and a bag of chips?

Well, it seems that artificial sugars may provide a role in weight control.

Randomized-control studies (1) have reported that artificial sugars when substituted for regular sugar help individuals lose weight and may be useful as part of a weight loss program, although long-term effects aren’t 100% clear.

Are there side effects to artificial sugar?

For decades, artificial sugars have been tested over and over.

Some believed they could possibly cause cancer.

To date, there is no sufficient evidence that promotes artificial sugar use and increased risk of cancer or other health problems.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates these substances and have found consuming them are pretty much safe in limited quantities.

The FDA (2) has established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for artificial sugars, you can find that info here.

How do you know if a food has artificial sugar?

Scan the ingredient list!

If you see any of the names of the artificial sugars (only 6 are approved for use in the U.S.) such as aspartame or saccharin, then bingo, there is that particular artificial sugar in the item.

Usually foods that are labeled “sugar-free” or “diet” will have artificial sugar in them.

I noticed the protein powder that I drink has artificial sugar in the ingredient list but there is no way to tell how much artificial sugar I’m drinking since the amounts are not required to be listed on food labels.

But before we call it a day, I want to take a second to talk about sugar alcohols and make sure you aren’t confused between them and artificial sugar.

Sugar alcohols do contain calories but usually less calories than regular table sugar.

They are naturally occurring carbohydrates in fruits & vegetables but can also be manufactured.

And no, you can’t get a buzz eating these guys, they do not contain actual ethanol.

Sugar alcohols are sweet but less sweet than regular sugar, still making them desirable in processed foods.

Usually, we don’t use them at home for anything in particular.

They are mostly found in processed foods such as candy, chocolate, chewing gum and toothpaste.

Some familiar names of sugar alcohols include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, erythritol, etc.

They can often be combined with artificial sugars in a particular food.

One big difference between these two is that food labels usually have the amount of sugar alcohol present in the food listed under carbohydrates on the nutrition facts label.

Foods that are labeled “sugar-free” or “no sugar added” will always have sugar alcohol amounts listed on the label.

Another big difference is the laxative effect sugar alcohols have.

Because they can’t be full digested, our gut microbiome will break them down, producing by-products such as gas, cramping or diarrhea.

There does not seem to be an ADI for sugar alcohols but the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (3) recommends no more than 50g/day of sorbitol or 20g/day of mannitol.

I feel like you’ll know when you become gassier, it may be time to cut back on sugar-free food/drink consumption!

At the end of the day, I’m a big believer of “everything in moderation”.

Do I think it’s great to drink a can of diet Pepsi every day even though it’s calorie-free?


But is once a week a better option?


Artificial sugar and processed sugar alcohols are still chemicals.

Why load your body every day with junk?

Six days out of the week, choose that infused water with lemon and mint.

But on the seventh day of the week, go ahead and have a diet soda.

It’s all about moderation.




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