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8 tips for healthy eating
The Eatwell Guide
Food labelling terms
Reference intakes on food labels
Starchy foods and carbohydrates
Dairy and alternatives
Meat in your diet
Fish and shellfish
The healthy way to eat eggs
Beans and pulses
Water, drinks and your health
Eating processed foods
5 A Day portion sizes
5 A Day recipes
5 A Day tips
5 A Day and your family
5 A Day on the go
5 A Day on a budget
5 A Day FAQs
School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme
Salt: the facts
Sugar: the facts
Top sources of added sugar
What does 100 calories look like?
Red meat and the risk of bowel cancer
What is a Mediterranean diet?
How to store food and leftovers
10 ways to prevent food poisoning
Why you should never wash raw chicken
How to wash fruit and vegetables
The truth about sweeteners
Sprouted seeds safety advice
Surprising 100-calorie snacks
Chilli con carne
Easy Italian chicken
Hearty vegetable soup
Mediterranean beef pasta
Tomato pasta sauce
Artificial sweeteners are low-calorie or calorie-free chemical substances used instead of sugar to sweeten foods and drinks.
They're found in thousands of products, from drinks, desserts and ready meals, to cakes, chewing gum and toothpaste.
Sweeteners approved for use in the UK include:
- acesulfame K
Both Cancer Research UK and the US National Cancer Institute have said sweeteners do not cause cancer.
"Large studies looking at people have now provided strong evidence that artificial sweeteners are safe for humans," states Cancer Research UK.
All sweeteners in the EU undergo a rigorous safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before they can be used in food and drink.
As part of the evaluation process, the EFSA sets an acceptable daily intake (ADI), which is the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day over the course of your lifetime.
You do not need to keep track of how much sweetener you consume each day, as our eating habits are factored in when specifying where sweeteners can be used.
Are sweeteners healthy?
Sweeteners may be safe, but are they healthy? Food manufacturers claim sweeteners help prevent tooth decay, control blood sugar levels and reduce our calorie intake.
EFSA has approved the health claims made about xylitol, sorbitol and sucralose, among others, in relation to oral health and controlling blood sugar levels.
Dietitian Emma Carder states: "Research into sweeteners shows they're perfectly safe to eat or drink on a daily basis as part of a healthy diet."
She also says they're a really useful alternative for people with diabetes who need to watch their blood sugar levels while still enjoying their favourite foods.
"Like sugar, sweeteners provide a sweet taste, but what sets them apart is that, after consumption, they do not increase blood sugar levels," she says.
It's been suggested that the use of artificial sweeteners may have a stimulating effect on appetite and, therefore, may play a role in weight gain and obesity.
But research into sweeteners and appetite stimulation is inconsistent. Also, there's little evidence from longer term studies to show that sweeteners cause weight gain.