Nonnutritive or artificial sweeteners

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These sweeteners contain no calories yet are much sweeter than sucrose by weight. Several of them have been very controversial as far as the possibility that they cause cancer. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed the concept of acceptable daily intake, or ADI. This is the maximum daily intake that's safe to consume each day over a lifetime. ADI is listed in the form that the sweetener usually appears or the food that it's usually added to. For example, saccharin's ADI is expressed in packets because it's used that way.

The ADIs in the following list are for adults. The ADI for a child is based on the size of a child compared to an average adult. For example, if the average adult is 150 pounds, the ADI for a 75-pound child is half the adult value.

i Aspartame: It's 150 to 200 times sweeter than sucrose. Many people seem to prefer the taste of aspartame, which is sold under the brand name Equal. It has an ADI of 18 to 19 cans of diet soda. It's not useful for cooking.

i Acesulfame: This sweetener is 200 times sweeter than sucrose and doesn't leave an aftertaste. Sold under the brand names Sunett and Sweet One, it can be used in cooking and is found in numerous foods and beverages as well as a tabletop sweetener. It has an ADI of 30 to 32 cans of diet soda.

i Saccharin: This sweetener is 300 to 400 times sweeter than sucrose. Brand names include Sweet'N Low and Sugar Twin. The ADI for saccharin is 9 to 12 packets per day.

i Sucralose: This sweetener is obtained from sugar and is 600 times sweeter. Sold under the name Splenda, it's very stable and can be used in place of sugar in any food. It leaves no unpleasant aftertaste. Its ADI is six cans of diet soda.

i Neotame: Authorized by the FDA in July 2000, neotame has 7,000 to 13,000 times the sweetening power of sucrose. It isn't used in commercial products yet, but food manufacturers are working with it because cooking it doesn't reduce its sweetening power. Because it isn't available in foods, there's no ADI for neotame and the brand name is not yet determined.

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