Are Artificial Sweeteners healthier than the table sugar? Whether your goal is cutting calories or eating healthier? Understand the pros and cons to make an informed choice. So, to help you decide, here is the real deal on the sweeteners. Today, the most commonly heard term is the ‘Artificial sweetener’. They may also be called as sugar substitutes, non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) and non-caloric sweeteners. Sugar substitutes are loosely considered as any sweetener that you use instead of regular table sugar (sucrose). 

How Artificial Sweeteners are derived?

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes, but may be derived from naturally occurring substances, including herbs or sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than the regular sugar. So, only a small amount is needed when you use these sugar substitutes.

Food sources:

All artificial sweeteners are chemically processed. They can be added to food like diet drinks, baked goods, frozen desserts, candy, light yogurt and chewing gum and during preparation of coffee, tea. You may also add them when you eat like sprinkling them on top of fruit. Most diet or low-calorie food products you buy at the store are made using artificial sweeteners. 

Classification of sugar substitutes:

Artificial sweeteners    Sweetness as compared to sugar   Calories     Acceptable daily intake 

                                                                                                      kcal/g             mg/kg body weight

  • Aspartame            180 times sweeter than sugar                  4                               50
  • Acesulfame-K       200 times sweeter than sugar                  0                               15
  • Saccharin                 300 times sweeter than sugar                 0                                5
  • Sucralose                 600 times sweeter than sugar                 0                                5
  • Neotame                  7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter                0                               11                                                                                          than sugar                                                         


# Reference from Harvard School of Public Health. Approved by FDA - - Regardless of how they are classified, sugar substitutes are not magic bullets for a healthier option. The above mentioned artificial sweeteners are safe for consumption in the long run in the following order of their safety. They are arranged in their descending order of their safety. (Green is most safe whereas red denotes least safe)

Artificial sweeteners      Sweetness as compared to sugar            Level of Safety

 Saccharin                                300 times sweeter than sugar                   Most Safe to use

 Sucralose                                600 times sweeter than sugar                   Safer to use

Acesulfame-K                        200 times sweeter than sugar                    Less safe of all the above

Aspartame                              180 times sweeter than sugar                   Lesser safe of all the above

Neotame                         7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar        Least safe of all the above.

Saccharin – The Safer Sweetener 

Saccharin is a no-calorie sweetener 300 times sweeter than table sugar. Today, saccharin is used in a wide range of low- and no-calorie and sugar-free foods and beverages, including tabletop sweeteners, baked goods, jams, chewing gum, canned fruit, candy, dessert toppings and salad dressings as well as cosmetic products, vitamins and pharmaceuticals. It is also used in tabletop sweeteners under the brand names Sweet n’ Low®, Sugar Twin® and Necta Sweet®. Today, health authorities around the world agree that saccharin is safe for human consumption. The US FDA has set the ADI for saccharin for children and adults at 5 mg/kg body weight. This means a 150-pound (68 kg) person can safely consume 340 mg of saccharin every day over his or her lifetime without adverse effects.  Saccharin is not metabolized by humans. It passes through the body unchanged. - - 

The aftermath of artificial sweeteners:

  • Aspartame is not recommended for people with Phenylketonuria(PKU). Their body is unable to break down one of the amino acids used to make aspartame.
  • Sweeteners affect the body’s ability to gauge how many calories are being consumed.
  • Some studies show that sugar and artificial sweeteners affect the brain in different ways.
  • Sweeteners may reduce the intake of calories and promotes weight loss and in some cases even show weight gain. There is conflicting research regarding this.
  • Diabetics must count these starch-based sweeteners as part of their carbohydrate limits since insulin is required for their metabolism.

Hence, when choosing sugar substitutes, it pays to be a savvy consumer. Moderation is the key with sugar substitutes. Get informed and look beyond the hype.