Strictly speaking, when artificial sweeteners first entered the human diet, they did not have safety guarantees. As early as 1878, humans discovered the incredibly sweet taste of saccharin (orthosulfobenzoic acid imide) and quickly utilized it in the food industry as a substitute for the relatively expensive sucrose at that time. However, during that period, the safety evaluation system for food additives had not been established, and its promotion can be considered somewhat hasty, driven by one reason: affordability.
It wasn’t until 1967 when the famous aspartame was accidentally discovered during the development of pharmaceuticals that people had a relatively comprehensive understanding of safety. They began conducting safety studies and assessments on new substances introduced into diets.
In 1980, aspartame received approval from the US FDA for use in carbonated beverages and other foods. At this point, it was already determined that aspartame was “generally safe for human consumption.” However, a chemical substance that is extensively used in food over a long period will always draw extra attention, and more detailed research on its safety continues in various countries, with the possibility of observing new phenomena in the future. Nevertheless, years of safe use history help us establish a safety baseline, which means that even if there are potential risks, they are unlikely to be significant.
The recommendations put forward by the World Health Organization (WHO) this time are based on a large-scale systematic review and meta-analysis, which included 283 relevant studies, making the evidence abundant. The extensive research, spanning over two hundred pages, summarized two key findings that are most relevant to us:
The use of artificial sweeteners does not have any long-term benefits in reducing body fat for adults or children.
The use of artificial sweeteners by healthy individuals has limited impact on reducing the risk of related diseases. Long-term use of artificial sweeteners may also have potential adverse effects, such as increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults.