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What are the known side effects of artificial sweeteners?

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Quick Answer

Artificial sweeteners that contain sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect, as well as causing gas, diarrhea and bloating when a person consumes large amounts, states Mayo Clinic. Sugar alcohols are natural carbohydrates found in vegetables and fruits, but they can be manufactured and used as a food additive in artificial sweeteners. The Food and Drug Administration regulates both sugar substitutes and manufactured sugar alcohols for safety.

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Full Answer

Artificial sweeteners that are FDA approved include saccharin, neotame, acesulfame, aspartame and sucralose, according to Harvard Medical School. While these sweeteners have minimal short-term side effects, medical experts have not yet been able to sufficiently measure long-term effects over the course of many years, as of 2015.

Artificial sweeteners such as saccharin have been associated with cancer in lab rats, but there is no medically supported evidence that artificial sweeteners pose any health risks to humans, states Mayo Clinic. It is best for people to consume either natural or artificial sweeteners in moderation.

Concerns about the effects of sweeteners include food cravings, states Harvard Medical School. Artificial sweeteners have little-to-no nutritional value, yet they tend to be many times sweeter than sugar. Studies suggest that artificial sweeteners increase cravings for more sweets, which causes people to consume excess calories and gain weight.

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