Everything started in the 1950s with non-nutritive sweeteners. They helped to reduce the cost and considered a good alternative to sugar, thus to reduce the weight.

The FDA-approved non-nutritive sweeteners are:

• Saccharin
• Aspartame
• Sucralose
• Acesulfame potassium
• Neotame

Twenty years later, in the 1970s, studies reported that the consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners has connection with cancer. Even today the controversy is great. For every positive argument, there is an equally compelling negative argument against their use.

Saccharin has no calories, does not raise blood sugar levels and is 200 to 700 times sweeter than the table sugar. It may cause bladder cancer in humans and allergy is the negative reports.

Aspartame was discovered in 1965 and the FDA approved it in 1996 as a “general purpose sweetener”. More than 6000 foods including the carbonated soft drinks contain this. It is 160 to 220 times sweeter than the table sugar.

Aspartame is one of the most controversial non-nutritive sweeteners. Headaches, depression, cancer and increased hunger are the reported negative aspects of aspartame.

Sucralose is the newest non-nutritive sweetener and it is 600 times sweeter than the table sugar. It has few calories from the raw materials and is not fully absorbed. It is approved as a general-purpose sweetener in 1999. It is found in more than 4500 food products.

The controversy surrounding sucralose comes from the fact that it was discovered while trying to create a new insecticide. Sucralose contains chlorine and this may bring health problems. There are no long-term studieson humans done. The available studies are only short-term animal studies. The alleged symptoms are gastrointestinal problems, skin irritations, wheezing, cough, runny nose, chest pain, anxiety, mood changes, anger, itchy eyes and depression.

Acesulfame potassium is approved as a non-nutritive sweetener from 1988. It is 200 times sweeter than the table sugar. It is used as a flavour enhancer or to preserve the sweetness of the sweet food.

Acesulfame potassium contains the carcinogen methylene chloride and long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches, depression, mental confusion, liver and kidney problems, visual disturbances and cancer. Long-term studies are necessary in humans to know more about this sweetener.

Neotame is approved by the FDA in 2002 and this new version of aspartame. It is chemically related to aspartame, but it is not dangerous to individuals with phenylketonuria. It is 7000 to 13000 times sweeter than table sugar.

Neotame may have all the negative effects of aspartame. Here also long-term studies on humans are missing.

If you have diabetes to have the sweet taste you can use these non-nutritive sweeteners. Infants, children and pregnant must avoid these. Read the label well before you buy sweet foods.