Agree or Disagree: Artificial Sweeteners Are a Healthier Alternative to Sugar Nutrition Science Panel

Artificial sweeteners such as acesulfame potassium (Sunett®, Sweet One®), aspartame (Equal®, NutraSweet®), saccharin (Sweet 'N Low®), sucralose (Splenda®), SFGE (Nectresse®) and steviol glycosides (Truvia®) are many times sweeter than regular sugar. They are used widely as alternatives to sugar because they contain almost no calories. The FDA has recognized these sweeteners as "safe for the general population under certain conditions of use." However, research appears to be conflicting. For example, some research suggests that artificial sweeteners may still cause us to crave more sweet foods and drinks and lead to excess calories. Agree or disagree: for the average adult, artificial sweeteners are healthier than sugar and should be used as a replacement.

Date Published: April 08, 2016

Last Updated: April 18, 2016

Latest Results
No Opinion
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Panelist Response

Sean F. O'Keefe, PhD
Virginia Tech

41Uncertain/No Opinion

For diabetics or pre-diabetics I think the evidence is clear these are healthier than sugar and should be used by them. For non-diabetics, I think exercise and restricting calories are better strategies for weight loss, because the rise in obesity in the US is contemporaneous with the rise in non caloric sweetener use. There is no cause and effect implied here, but certainly lowering sugar calories in food products does not reduce obseity.

David Katz, MD
Yale University

50Disagree - Not Confident

Recent evidence suggests some advantages to 'non-caloric sweeteners' in the context of controlled interventions. In the real world, however, my impression is they propagate a sweet tooth, and conspire against genuine, sustainable improvements in overall diet quality. More on that matter here.

Chafik Hdider, PhD
National Institute of Agronomic Research, Tunisia

51Disagree - Not Confident

Natalie Parletta, PhD
University of South Australia

71Disagree - Very Confident

There is multilevel evidence that artificial sweeteners are harmful including a recent Nature paper on raised blood sugar levels, mediated by changes in the gut microbiota. Furthermore I do not trust research suggesting they are safe given the massive invested industry interests in artificial sweeteners.

Duane Mellor, PhD
University of Canberra

20Agree - Somewhat Confident

Although there is some negative data on effects on microbiomes and glucose tolerance this does not have clear links to human health. The potential of artificial sweeteners to replace sugar as an alternative has good data to show that it can help to reduce energy and sugar intake. Whilst the preference is to use neither, sugar or sweeteners, there is a clear place for sweeteners in individuals wishing to transition to a healthier dietary pattern

Rebecca C. Reynolds, PhD
University of New South Wales

40Uncertain/No Opinion

Artificial sweeteners can be useful in reducing calorie intake but also may disrupt appetite regulation - more research is needed

Vincent Ho, PhD
Western Sydney University

41Uncertain/No Opinion

There is conflicting research surrounding the health benefits of artificially sweetened drinks. Some long-term studies show that regular consumption of artificially sweetened drinks reduces the intake of calories and promotes weight loss whilst other research reveals no effect. Some studies show weight gain with consumption of artificial sweetened drinks. One study even suggested an association with artificial sweetened drinks and Type 2 diabetes however a causal link has not been established.

Claire McEvoy, PhD
Queen's University Belfast

41Uncertain/No Opinion

Artificial sweeteners tend to be calorie-free and threfore a useful substitute for sugar in weight management. However, the long term effects of consumption are largely unknown and more research is required.


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