Intense sweeteners have no proven nutritional value, says French authority

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

There is not enough conclusive evidence to justify recommending intense sweeteners as a sugar replacement, says the French food agency
There is not enough conclusive evidence to justify recommending intense sweeteners as a sugar replacement, says the French food agency

Related tags Intense sweeteners Obesity Sugar Sucralose Snack functional beverage beverage

Recommending intense sweeteners as a way to reduce sugar intakes cannot be justified as a public health strategy, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) has concluded. 

In its assessment, ANSES said there was currently no conclusive evidence for the beneficial effects of intense sweetener consumption on the incidence of type 2 diabetes, blood sugar management for diabetics, sweetness perception or weight management.

“This sugar intake reduction is to be achieved by the overall reduction in the sweet taste of food, and from an early age. As such, ANSES recommends that beverages with sweeteners and sugar are not a substitute for water consumption.”

It said sweetener consumption had increased sharply over the last 20 years perhaps due to concerns around obesity, but there had yet to be an overall assessment of the possible risks and nutritional benefits of such products in Europe.

It also concluded that accusations of associated risks like the development of cancer, type 2 diabetes and preterm birth were also currently unsubstantiated.

It said further research on both the possible pros and cons was warranted.

Prove it

It said the replacement of sugar with intense sweeteners caused in most cases a lower short-term energy intake through lower calorie intake. However, current data failed to document what the long-term effect of that might be and whether this effect was maintained.


On weight control, ANSES said studies in adults and children had reported conflicting results – while some even saw a paradoxical association with weight gain, although the reason behind had not been established.

There was no evidence for the benefit of regular consumption of sweeteners as a sugar replacement on glycaemic control for diabetics, and this had not been proven to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Key gaps in research

ANSES said more research was needed on consumption among children and what this might mean for the development of taste, food preferences and intake control. The impact for other specific populations like pregnant women and diabetics has also been under-reported, and in particular the risks for these groups should be investigated.

For the general population research should focus on weight management, it said.  

In France, the most common intensive sweeteners were aspartame, acesulfame K and sucralose.

The full opinion in French can be found here​. An English version of the opinion is due to be available by the end of this week. 

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aspartame's methanol forms formaldehyde inside human cells in 20 tissues, WC Monte paradigm

Posted by Rich Murray,

aspartame's methanol forms formaldehyde inside human cells in 20 tissues, WC Monte paradigm

Methanol (wood alcohol) is 11% of aspartame -- every can of drink gives 22 mg free methanol into the GI tract.

With a blood half-life 3 hours, it reaches and easily enters every cell in the body and fetus every minute.

In humans only, it is made into uncontrolled formaldehyde right inside cells by ADH1 enzyme in 20 specific tissues.

Since fall, 2007 Prof. Woodrow C. Monte, Arizona State University, Food Science and Nutrition, retired 2004, has given a free online bibliography of 782 mostly full text medical research references:

whilesciencesleeps dot com/references/

Methanol mainly comes from aspartame, cigarette and wood smoke, and unfresh fruits juices and vegetables cut up and preserved wet at room temperature in sealed cans and jars.

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Narrow view

Posted by John Fry,

High-potency sweetener use in the EU replaces over 4 million tonnes of sugar.
The EU consumes about 18 million tonnes of added sugars in addition. If sweeteners were not used the nutritional effect of the extra sugar would be disastrous. Perhaps the value of sweeteners should be seen in this light rather than ANSES rather narrow view.

It may also be desirable to reduce sweetness of foods as a means of lowering sugar consumption but, regardless of how low-calorie it is, water is a dull drink. Sweetness is one of life’s pleasures and we are hard-wired to like sweet things. It is naïve to expect people - whole populations in fact - to reduce this liking in short order. What is urgently needed is moderation in sugar intake - a moderation that can be safely assisted by high-potency sweeteners.

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