Non-sugar sweeteners: What to look out for when satisfying your sweet tooth
Can we have our cake and eat it too?
Written by
Dan Cable
Medically reviewed by
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Last updated
March 25, 2024
min read
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Our bodies are complex so navigating healthy nutrition can be challenging, even for the health-inclined.

Guidelines are shifting and sugar is now the focus after a long, slow journey to bust the myth that saturated fats cause heart disease and a whole host of other intuitive reasons [1][2][3].

Nevertheless, sugar still sneaks into every occasion in the modern diet, from breakfast to dinner, perhaps because we’re so hooked on the opioid/dopamine kick from sugar [4].

In response, many non-sugar sweeteners have emerged, both synthetic and natural, over the years so we must ask the question: can we have our cake and eat it too?

Not all non-sugar sweeteners are 'equal' — despite the familiar brand name — so let’s evaluate a few of the most common ones, so you know what to look for on the back of the pack.


Sucralose (sweetener 955) is chlorinated sucrose (yes, chlorinated) and it's one of the most common synthetic sweeteners as it’s cheap, potent and palatable. But, there’s emerging evidence that it ferments in the gut into sucralose acetate, a highly genotoxic compound [5].

Fun fact, it was first considered upon its discovery in 1975 to be a potential insecticide as it shares similarities with DDT and other organochlorines — perhaps it’s better suited for cockroach control instead [6][7].


Aspartame (sweetener 951) is a methyl ester of two amino acids (phenylalanine and aspartic acid). It's another common synthetic sweetener, often found in ‘diet drinks’, that may increase the risk of metabolic disease [8].


Xylitol (sweetener 967) is a sugar alcohol with 40% less caloric density than glucose and is a common ingredient in sugar-free gum or ice cream.

It raises blood sugar but appears to have some benefits on visceral fat, a leading indicator of cardiometabolic disease [9]. The main drawback is the effect of high doses on gastric distress and potential changes to the gut microbiome [10].


Erythritol (sweetener 968) is another sugar alcohol but has fewer disadvantages than Xylitol and the other polyols as it has zero calories and no effect on insulin. However, gastric distress in excess is still a concern.


Stevia (sweetener 960) is a natural sweetener that is zero-calorie and confers potential benefits to improved blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity and microbiome diversity, which is a win-win [11][12][13].

Monk fruit extract

Monk fruit extract is another natural sweetener that’s becoming popular and has similar potential benefits to Stevia, however, the global supply chain is not as established [14].

The tide is turning on synthetic sweeteners — even the World Health Organisation is calling out potential long-term risks of increased cardiometabolic disease [15].

I try to diligently avoid packaged products containing Sucralose as I have a family history of early-onset colorectal cancer. But, I do have a sweet tooth so I carry a Stevia dropper in my briefcase and keep raw cacao at home for when I need some bitterness to help control my cravings. 

Be careful when buying Stevia or Monk Fruit sweeteners as many brands dilute down with 95% erythritol.

This post contains general information about health and wellness practices. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be treated as such. Please consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new health regimen. This information is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.

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