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Artificial Sweeteners Do Not Cause Cancer: Old Myths Debunked!

Debunking old myths is getting to be a full-time job for me. It is surprising how many people are afraid of using artificial sweeteners. Learn more.

Debunking old myths is getting to be a full-time job for me. It is surprising how many people still are afraid of using artificial sweeteners. Over 1/3 of the population of children in our country are overweight and more Americans are losing the battle of the bulge every day.

The general public needs some type of replacement to help fight off those sugar cravings. Artificial sweeteners can offer an improved taste without additional calories.

Artificial sweeteners are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. They have been regulating sugar substitutes since the 1958 Amendment to the Food, Drugs, and Cosmetic Act.

Many of the original concerns and studies have been reversed based upon current research and accurate scientific documentation. Some excerpts below are directly taken from the FDA's website and it shows how direct they are about the safety of the artificial sweeteners.

Artificial Sweeteners


In the early 1970s, studies and laboratory rats linked saccharin with the development of bladder cancer. Warning labels were issued and mandated on all products that contained saccharin.

This finding has been reversed based on the fact that the chemical activity of saccharin is specific only to rats and not to humans. It is especially specific to male rats.

These findings lead to the delisting of saccharin as a toxic substance and was removed from the US National Toxicology Program's Report on Carcinogens in December of 2000. It had been listed there since 1981.


Commonly known as NutraSweet or Equal, Aspartame is the most commonly used a sweetener in existence today. It was originally approved by the FDA in 1981, but it was quickly suspected of causing brain tumors. Some laboratory testing found that rats fed high doses of aspartame developed lymphomas and leukemias.

Further investigation revealed that the doses fed to the rats were equivalent to humans drinking 8 to 2083 cans of diet soda daily. More importantly, the link between aspartame and brain tumors in humans was associated with a noted increase of that cancer in the American population between 1975 and 1992.

Due to the fact that aspartame was not made until 8 years after the noted statistical increase in brain tumors, the National Cancer Institute has since cleared aspartame of having any side effects of cancer.

Sucralose And Neotame

Another more common sugar substitute is sucralose and is commonly known as Splenda and was approved by the FDA in 1998. The original approval was for Splenda's use in food and beverage, but in 2002, it was approved as a general purpose sugar substitute.

Neotame is similar to aspartame and was approved as an artificial sweetener, except in meat and poultry in 2002. Prior to approval, the FDA reviewed more than 100 safety studies for each of these sweeteners prior to their exposure to the American population.

The results of those studies showed no evidence that sucralose or neotame caused any cancers or posed any other threat to human health.


Stevia is a natural sweetener that grows as a mint-leaf plant. The plant is actually available in about 240 species that are normally native to South America, Central America, and Mexico. Recently, natural migration of the plant has been found in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

It is a non-insulin stimulating sweetener that is 30-45 times sweeter tasting than standard table sugar. Stevia is digestible and offers no nutritional value in its processed state, however, if it is eaten in the raw form offers some fiber.

Stevia is the number one artificial sweetener used in Japan, and it is commonly found in other parts of Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Israel, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, and other foreign countries. Stevia is also believed to have medicinal properties that may treat obesity, high blood pressure, and hypertension.


Hypertension, also referred to as high blood pressure, HTN or HPN, is a medical condition in which the blood pressure is chronically elevated. In current usage, the word "hypertension" without a qualifier normally refers to systemic, arterial hypertension.


Although artificial sweeteners are considered to be very safe, there is no question that some individuals may be hypersensitive to these products and therefore should avoid their use.

In most cases, women who are pregnant are advised to avoid all artificial chemicals and extremely processed foods. The reason for this is more closely associated with the increase calorie needs of the developing child and the benefit of the additional calories supplied by a moderate carbohydrate diet. Unfortunately, the previous information has eluded to why most obstetricians warned expecting mother's to avoid sugar substitutes.

Please note that sugar substitutes does not mean that a sweetener is calorie free. Some products like glycerine are about 60% as sweet as sugar and have calories associated with them. Several other forms of sugar alcohols exist and are used in food manufacturing. The effects that they have on insulin is much less than the large effect by any common starch or table sugar.

Other artificial sweeteners are available throughout the world market, but we have discussed those most commonly used in the United States for the purpose of this article. The use of artificial sweeteners in moderation allows for improved sweet taste, without the high caloric side effects.

It should be noted that High Fructose Corn Syrup does not require insulin for absorption and is considered by many nutritional experts as a poor substitute for table sugar (sucrose). For more information about artificial sweeteners, contact the FDA at:

5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857
Telephone: 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332)

Selected References
  1. Much of this information is taken from the National Cancer Institute.
  2. Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Esposti DD, et al. First experimental demonstration of the multipotential carcinogenic effects of aspartame administered in the feed to Sprague-Dawley rats. Environmental Health Perspectives 2006; 114(3):379-385.
  3. Lim U, Subar AF, Mouw T, et al. Consumption of aspartame-containing beverages and incidence of hematopoietic and brain malignancies. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prevention 2006; 15.
  4. Chatsudthipong V, Muanprasat C., Stevioside and related compounds: therapeutic benefits beyond sweetness. Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Jan;121(1):41-54. Epub 2008 Oct 27
  5. Boonkaewwan C, Toskulkao C, Vongsakul M., Anti-Inflammatory and Immunomodulatory Activities of Stevioside and Its Metabolite Steviol on THP-1 Cells. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Feb 8;54(3):785-9.