Artificial Sweeteners: FDA Approved Poisons

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Artificial sweeteners seem like attractive alternatives to sugar since they add virtually no calories to your diet. Adding to the allure, you only need to use a fraction compared to the amount of regular sugar you’d normally use for adding sweetness. But there’s a seriously big catch — they’re dangerous and they’re showing up everywhere these days.

Artificial sweeteners are widely used in processed products, including tabletop sweeteners, baked goods, soft drinks, powdered drink mixes, candy, puddings, canned foods, jams and jellies, dairy products, and scores of other foods and beverages.

What’s really scary is that artificial sweeteners have also become popular at home. More and more home cooks are enthusiastically using artificial sweeteners, thinking that they’re healthy alternatives to regular table sugar. And let’s be honest, the information going around has been really confusing. In the 1970s and ‘80s, the US government warned us about the health dangers of artificial sweeteners. They even labeled the “pink” packets as a potential carcinogen back in the day.

But that’s all changed now. Despite mounting clinical and laboratory evidence pointing to dangerous health consequences attributed to artificial sweeteners, the government has now decided that they’re safe. The official position of the FDA and the National Cancer Institute is that there’s no clear cut evidence of disease-causing effects from the use of artificial sweeteners. Unbelievable.

And don’t think for a second that corn syrups are healthy either, despite the intense marketing efforts of the National Corn Growers Association. These sweeteners are popular because they’re cheap and readily available, period. No real chef in their right mind would ever use them otherwise. Sure, the mass produced pre-packaged food industry relies on high fructose corn syrup, but only because it’s a direct path to profits.

So How Can You Avoid These Dangerous Chemical Sweeteners?

The first step is the easiest: just don’t use those little pre-packaged artificial sweeteners. As a matter of fact, just avoid that section of the grocery store altogether.

The next hurdle is a little more difficult to overcome when roaming the aisles. Truth is, artificial sweeteners and processed sugars have found their way into just about every pre-packaged and canned food item, making them really difficult to avoid.

Of course, the best thing to do is not to buy anything that’s pre-packaged or canned. Of course, this can be a bit of a challenge if you’re on a tight budget. So, if you have to purchase pre-packaged and canned foods for financial reasons, at least arm yourself with knowledge.

Get into the habit of looking on the back of product labels, as artificial sweeteners and processed sugars will be included within the ingredient list. The closer it is to the beginning of the list, the higher the amount included. Generally speaking, only purchase products that have them listed at the end of the ingredient list, or better yet, not listed at all.

Here are two sample labels. If you had to buy one product, which would you pick?



If you picked the label on the right, you chose wisely. It uses whole oats instead of rice cereal and doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup. Unfortunately, they both contain the artificial sweetener sucralose. But if you’re picking the lesser of the two evils, the label on the right is the one to run with.

Artificial Sweeteners and Their Adverse Effects

The following table lists the most common artificial sweeteners and processed sugars along with their potential adverse effects:1

Artificial Sweetener
Brand Name
Potential Adverse Effects
Acesulfame potassium
Sweet One
Insulin Resistance
Blurry Vision
Ringing in the Ear (Tinnitus)
Headaches & Migraines
Hyperactivity in Kids
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Canned Foods
Pre-packaged Foods
Insulin Resistance
Type 2 Diabetes
Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver
High Triglycerides
Sweet’N Low SugarTwin
Bloating & Gas

Please note: A new category of artificial sweeteners are sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol. At the present time, no significant adverse effects have been documented with them.

What Sweeteners are Safe to Use?

Fortunately, there are a few safe, natural sweeteners available. Here’s a list of our top picks for sweetening your diet and recipes:

  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Date Sugar
  • Evaporated Grape Juice
  • Evaporated Whole Cane Juice
  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup Granules
  • Stevia

Do you avoid artificial sweeteners yourself? Have you experienced any of the negative effects listed above? Please share your experience in the comments.


  1. (Accessed 9/30/11)


Lauren said...

I try to avoid HFCS, which unfortunately hides in many foods (even the "healthy" ones) under different names like inverted cane sugar. I had a friend who lost a ton of weight following 3 simple principles, no HFCS, no MSG, and getting nutrition from as many "whole" sources a possible. Other than keeping off weight, I don't use artificial sweeteners for my future health. There is no evidence now that they aren't specifically linked to cancer, diabetes, and a slew of other problems, but who knows what new findings will say in the future. No thanks artificial sweetener, can you pass the honey please?

Anonymous said...

How about Truvia, is it a safe alternative?

Anonymous said...

It took me quite awhile, but i finally figured out that diet drinks were contributing to my migraines. I stopped drinking any diet drinks and migraines have gotten less often

Life Extension said...

Lauren, you got it right! Honey is a great healthy choice to sweetened just about anything.

Life Extension said...

Anonymous, Truvia contains erythritol. At this point, it looks safe to consume. But more research on sugar alcohols is needed.

Anonymous said...

I like coconut crystals, reminds you of brown sugar. Its the sap from the coconut tree. I also like "sweeten Me".

Life Extension said...

Anonymous, we had never heard of Sweeten Me so we looked it up and liked we what saw. Dr. Mike said he's going to try it this weekend. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Relative to this blog entry is the continuing push to use "natural" agave nectar/syrup as a supposedly healthy alternative, at least partly because it has a lower glycemic index than glucose. I am posting this particularly because being "natural" many will simply assume that agave nectar is better than refined sugar and most artificial sweeteners.

However doing research on agave nectar shows that the main reason for its lower glycemic index is that THE MAIN SUGAR IN AGAVE NECTAR IS FRUCTOSE! In fact, with respect to fructose/glucose ratio, agave nectar is far worse than HFCS! So stay away from this poison and advise others to do the same.

--Paul Wakfer

MoreLife for the rational -
Reality based tools for more life in quantity and quality
The Self-Sovereign Individual Project -
Self-sovereignty, rational pursuit of optimal lifetime happiness,
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Life Extension said...

Thanks for your input Paul.

Anonymous said...

What kind of cancer does saccaharin cause? And do you have any links to some of the studies? Thank you...

Anonymous said...

How about xylitol? Since this is a natural sugar made from hardwood.

Life Extension said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Life Extension said...

At this time, sugar alcohols like xylitol appear to be safe alternatives to sugar.

Terri Jay said...

It's a shame that this article didn't mention that Xylitol is deadly to dogs in small quantities. If they get in your purse or even find some gum on the ground, it can kill them. But it's okay for us??

berry lee said...

I have had NO ADVERSE effects from using artificial sweetners sparingly as a healthy alternative to table sugar ! Best, berry

Anonymous said...

I've been using about 4 tablespoons of Xylitol daily (in coffee) over a year with no side effects. It looks and tastes the same as sugar. I also add it to saline rinse for sinus infections which clear up quickly. It's made from either corn or birch. If you purchase corn derived Xylitol, make sure it's non-GMO. It's highly toxic for dogs, so it must be kept out of their reach.

Life Extension said...

Anonymous- Thanks for the tips! Xylitol is a healthy sugar substitute for many reasons – we appreciate you chiming in!

Jonathan said...

Hi Life Extension,

Thanks for clarifying re: xylitol. Do you have a position on erythritol?

LifeExtension said...

Jonathan - We don't have an official position on erythritol, but it's unlikely to affect blood sugar levels or cause tooth decay.

ari said...

There is some miss information in this article. Xylitol and erythritol are 100% natural and are not in the category of artificial sweeteners, and actually have many beneficial uses such as cavity prevention. furthermore, most of the recommended natural sugar replacements mentioned in the end of the blog are high in fructose which is essentially the same as sugar. After all sugar is also "natural".

Anonymous said...

How about xylitol. Its suppose to be great for teeth and better for blood sugar

Life Extension said...

Anonymous - Xylitol is a safe sugar substitute. Here's a little more info on it:

Anonymous said...

What research or studies do you know of to back up your claim about the sucralose sweetener? thanks.

Anonymous said...

Erythritol is made from corn, so make sure it is non-GMO or organic.

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