What you should know about artificial sweeteners

Aspartame, sucrose, acesulfame potassium, stevia: From yogurt to diet pop, artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes are everywhere, appealing to the growing number of consumers who want to watch their weight.

Despite the sweeteners’ ubiquity in the grocery aisles, however, there’s no end to the confusion about their safety.

Companies that sell artificial sweeteners, or foods made with them, assert they are harmless. Advocacy groups, such as the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, cite studies that link some of them to cancer. The sugar lobby (yes, such a thing exists) argues artificial sweeteners are inferior to the real article. Then there’s the conspiracy theorists who liken sugar substitutes to poison.

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