Position Statements

Low- & No-Calorie Sweeteners

  • Low- & no-calorie sweeteners (LNCS) are among the most thoroughly researched ingredients worldwide
  • Sweeteners have been approved by all leading health authorities around the world
  • Both Cancer Research UK and the US National Cancer Institute have said sweeteners do not cause cancer
  • The NHS website also makes clear that LNCS are safe 
  • Public Health England endorses the use of LNCS in calorie reduction and weight management

What are low- & no-calorie sweeteners (LNCS)?

Low- & no-calorie sweeteners (LNCS) are used by food and drinks producers as a substitute for sugar.

There are several types of LNCS, from artificial and natural sources. They are 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. Each LCS has its own unique taste profile, characteristics and benefit.

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

How long have LCS been around for?

LNCS have been safely used and enjoyed by consumers all over the world for more than a century. The first commonly-used LNCS, saccharin, was discovered in 1879. Since then, a number of other LNCS, including acesulfame K (ace-K), aspartame, cyclamate, sucralose and steviol glycosides, have been discovered and are now in widespread use in foods and drinks worldwide.

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 LNCS, 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.

Are LNCS safe?

LNCS 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.

Do LNCS – such as saccharin and aspartame – cause cancer?

All sweeteners are tightly regulated and rigorously tested for safety by the European Food Standards Agency. The opinion from all leading health authorities and Cancer Research UK is that there is no strong evidence that sweeteners are linked to cancer risk.

What are the benefits of using LNCS?

LNCS 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.

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

All products made with LNCS 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.

Will drinks that contain LNCS help me lose weight?

LNCS 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 low- and no-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.

In March 2017, the UK Government and Public Health England publicly endorsed the use of LNCS as a safe alternative to reduce sugar in food and drink and help people manage their weight.

Are LNCS suitable for people with diabetes?

LNCS offer people with diabetes broader food choices by providing the pleasure of sweet taste without raising blood glucose. As LCS have no impact on insulin and blood sugar levels and do not provide calories, they can also have a role to play in weight loss and weight control for people with type 2 diabetes.

Are drinks containing LNCS bad for your teeth?

Unlike sugar, LNCS 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.

Stevia has been in commercial use in other parts of the world since 1971, and was approved by the EU in 2010 after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) carried out a comprehensive analysis of all the available evidence and concluded they were safe for human consumption.