Low-calorie sweeteners Q&A

What are low-calorie sweeteners?

No- and low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) are used by food and drinks producers as a substitute for sugar.

There are several types of LCS, from artificial and natural sources, used in a range of food and drink products including: chewing gum, tomato ketchup, ice cream, soft drinks and cough syrups. Some well-known sweeteners include: aspartame, acesulfame K, sucralose, and stevia.

Rising demand for no- and low-calorie products has led to an increase in the use of LCS, but they have been safely used all over the world for decades.

How do you know if a food or drink contains LCS?

All products made with low-calorie sweeteners must say ‘with sweeteners’ on the label. In addition, as with any other food ingredient, they are shown on the label and the ingredients list with their full name and other times with their European legislation ‘E’ number. If a food additive has an E number, this is assurance that it has passed stringent safety tests and is approved for use throughout the EU.

What are the benefits of using LCS?

LCS enable food and drink producers to create low-calorie products whilst still maintaining the taste that consumers are looking for. This allows consumers to substitute products that they enjoy for ones which have fewer calories making it easier for them to manage their calorie intake.

Will drinks that contain LCS help me lose weight?

LCS are used in place of sugar in many foods and drinks to provide people with a low- or no-calorie alternative. Swapping from regular to no- and low-calorie drinks will help people reduce their calorie intake from the drinks they consume but they will still need to manage their overall calorie intake from other food and drink items.

Are LCS safe?

LCS are among the most thoroughly researched ingredients worldwide. They can only be used after approval has been obtained from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) based on the authority’s vigorous assessment. A consumer benefit must also be shown before a sweetener is added to the permitted list of sweeteners. In March 2017 the UK Government and Public Health England publicly endorsed the use of LCS as a safe alternative to reduce sugar in food and drink and help people manage their weight.

Are drinks containing LCS bad for your teeth?

Unlike sugar, LCS are not fermentable and do not contribute to tooth decay. However, any food and drink which is acidic can cause enamel erosion but experts agree that the key to good dental health is to have good dental hygiene and brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.

What is stevia?

Stevia is a plant, the leaves of which contain a unique source of natural sweetness.

What is the difference between natural and artificial sweeteners?

A natural sweetener is derived from a natural source whereas a synthetic (artificial) sweetener has been developed to sweeten food and drinks in place of sugar. All LCS, whether natural or synthetic, can only be used after approval has been obtained from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) based on the authority’s vigorous assessment. A consumer benefit must also be shown before a sweetener is added to the permitted list of sweeteners.