Acesulfame K, the acclaimed artificial sweetener.

Acesulfame Potassium (Acesulfame K) the the artificial sweetener in almost everything is highly acclaimed for its safety and is the sweetener of choice in most diet sodas. However, I suggest avoiding it at all cost. I know most of you know better than to give your children diet pop. The thing is, it’s everywhere. It’s not just in diet pop; it’s in products that the average American child ingests daily.

Human studies haven’t really been conducted on the safety of acesulfame K though.  In some animal studies though, it produced lung tumors, breast tumors, rare types of tumors of other organs (such as the thymus gland), several forms of leukemia and chronic respiratory disease… and here’s the clincher… even when less than maximum allowed doses were given. Various other studies in animals have been done that say the studies claiming toxicity are untrue. Though when you read the fine print of the aspartame studies, you learn that scientists were using a shortened testing time model which was new to them. In the scientists’ fine print, they mention that because they used a new shortened testing model, there is uncertainty whether the study possessed sufficient sensitivity to detect a carcinogenic effect and whether any potential cancer could have grown in the time allowed during the study.

All this back and forth leads me to believe basically no one.

So, I’m left to think for myself yet again.

Here’s what I do know: Acesulfame K contains the carcinogen methylene chloride. Long-term exposure to methylene chloride is known to cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans.

Children without dietary restrictions supposedly can safely ingest a maximum dosage of 6.8 mg of acesulfame K per pound of body weight each day. It’s called the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI.) I guess we’re all just supposed to know this and keep a tally of the amount of ace-K we let into our children’s bodies.

Though, I’m not really sure how, since I can’t seem to find the mg amount listed on any of the packages that contain it.

At any rate, ignoring the studies that show that even “safe levels” can cause all sorts of cancers, let’s just be good complacent citizens for a second and focus on what our government is telling us is safe. We can safely ingest (according to our government’s ADI ration) about 6.8 mg of acesulfame per pound of body weight per day. My daughter weighs 30 pounds, so she supposedly can safely ingest 204 mg of acesulfame K a day. How safe is my 30 pound daughter to eat normal foods at the grocery store?  Keep in mind that 1 sweetener pack has 50 mg of acesulfame K. So, my daughter can have the equivalent of about four sweetener packs during the day and still be “safe.”

At first, one would assume that’d be easy to stay under the ADI of ace-K. Until one checks the labels on every item in their grocery cart.

Products that contain acesulfame K, besides diet soda that I noticed with a passive search of the grocery aisles include:

  • Chewing gum
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Almost all OTC medicines
  • Crystal Light
  • Minute Maid Lemonade and juices
  • Hawaiian Punch
  • Gatorade
  • Fuze “Healthy Infusions”
  • Ocean Spray “light” everything
  • Kool-Aid Jammers
  • Arizona Iced Teas
  • Sugar free candies of every kind
  • Cough drops
  • V8 Splash light
  • Vitamins

At any rate, I could go on and on and on. I just touched on the items containing acesulfame K. The list goes on to include multiple brands of dairy products, ice creams, desserts, jams, jellies, preserves, baked goods, marinated meats and fish, breakfast cereals, salad dressings, condiments, relishes and snack foods.

Besides for what we’ve discussed, there’s also the issue of how this artificial sweetener (and almost all artificial sweeteners for that matter) alter a human being’s pH in their body. A human being’s pH in their body should be slightly alkaline. For good health, our bodies should have a pH range from 7.36-7.44. This is controlled in large part by our diets. If our bodies become too acidic, we become sick. If they become to0 acidic for too long, we become diseased. Just because a food has a lot of acid in it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. What matters is what that food does to our body once we are ingesting it. Artificial sweeteners form a very acidic pH in your body. In fact, to neutralize a beverage sweetened with acesulfame K, you would have to drink an average of around 30 glasses of water.

I promise you with my whole heart, I believe that I am not being over dramatic when I say that the people who process your average grocery store foods and the governmental agencies that oversee them, do not care about your child. Somebody has to. Check your labels as they go into the grocery cart.



  1. leanne

    Hey Dawn, I am very interested in the claims that various foods cause our bodies to have altered pH and the danger of becoming acidic – and we have previously established in our prior conversations that clearly 1+1 does NOT equal 2, in thattaking acid in does not equate a rise in body acidity (or oranges and tomatoes would be dangerous for us). However, I have yet to ever find any valid description of the metabolic process whereby the foods accused of raising body pH do in fact raise the body’s pH, nor to what degree. You seem to claim a specific amount of water intake required to decrease the concentration of acid that would be caused by ingestion of a single beverage sweetened with artificial sweetener. Can you tell me exactly what pH level my body acidifies to when I ingest on diet coke, as well as the metabolic process by which this happens?

  2. leanne

    and, fwiw, I marvel at how crazy we have been as humans to get to the point where we ever thought it was a good idea to include chemicals of any kind as “food” (you know, rather than stick to plants and animals)… I mean, I seriously wonder what that very first thought was, and how it quickly became just “normal” to accept all kinds of chemicals into our diets… as long as it tasted great and looked fun. We sure are stupid animals, for being the *most intelligent* on the planet…

  3. leanne

    There *is* tons of information out there about pH and foods that they report to cause your body to become acidic, posted by various sources, but I have never ever once found any *reputable* source provide information about the degree to which pH is altered by particular foods of particular amounts, nor what constitutes “your body becomes acidic”, nor the biological / metabolic mechanism by which any particular food causes one’s body to become acidic. I respect you, and know you typically do not post information along blindly without actually sourcing it for legitimacy and reseaching it to the point of understanding it – that’s why I asked how you knew this particular chemical causes our body to become acidic, and how you knew the number of glasses of water required to drink to decrease the concentration adequately that it would not cause a rise in acidity in our body (though you didnt’ say if the 30 glasses of water would need to be ingested at the very same time as the diet soda, or within a certain time, or any details). Can you point me to any information other than the vague and widely perpetuated *warnings* that provides specific and valid information as to the metabolic mechanism that upon ingestion of certain foods cause one’s body pH to rise? And how “body pH” is measured? I have been called “the Google Queen”, and I have never been able to find anything other than the common claims and warnings without any actual information…

    • Well… it’s really quite simple as explained to me by a naturopath in the area. Likewise, a local ob/gyn from asia pushes watermelon whenever his patients are sick because it has the highest “alkaline forming nature” of any common food. I thought it was basically common knowledge that pH affects health. Everything has a pH that is best for good health. Plants need soil to be a certain pH to maintain their proper pH. Aquariums have to have a careful pH balance or else the fish get sick, and eventually die. Phisoderm soap is based on it. Vaginal soaps are based on it. But when I have some time, I will go through my resources and find you a suitable source.

      • leanne

        lol sorry, you sound defensive!!! I’m being genuinely curious, and respect you as a source of information, Dawn – hopefully not being interpreted as confrontational… Yes, I’m aware it’s “basically common knowledge that pH affects health”. What I’m not ever having any success finding is how different sources come to vilify particular foods as causing our bodies to become acidic – all I ever find is warnings that don’t provide any rationale for the warning, no explanation of how this food or that food *cause* our bodies to become acidic, nor the degree to which any particular food increases acidity (regardless of starting point, does it increase by a full point, by 1/10 point, what?). It is a wholly different thing to compare the acidity of a water environment or of soap to foods, because with external sources applied to a body there *is* a 1:1 correlation (i.e. if the externally applied source is acidic (or highly alkaline) it will cause damage to the cells it touches) whereas food is *not* 1:1 (our stomach is the most corrosive acid possible, far more corrosive than Coke – and apparently citric acid in the form of tomatoes and oranges are very good for us). There is apparently something in the metabolic process of particular components of specific foods which raises or decreases our pH, and I have never ever found that claim to be explained biologically / metabolically, nor have I ever had any explanation as to how the alterations in body pH are measured in humans and solely attributed to particular foods. I just wonder if there is any science behind the claims, or if it’s just a situation where people are applying Scientific Principle A to a totally different situation as an extension, but without proof (more a scientific theory than scientific principle). That’s all. And I see below you’ve put links, I will check them out. Like I said, I’ve Googled this many many many times, and only ever get links to naturopaths and others promoting particular products or books or selling something who are making these claims without offering anything – I can’t find anything scientific – so I assumed you probably had something, like I said, you generally don’t pass things on that you haven’t checked out yourself. I checked out that link to “Northwestern Health Science University” as a promising source – unfortunately, that “university” is the new name for the “Northwestern College of Chiropractic” and the “Dr” quoted in the article is a Chiropractor. I was hopeful seeing “Dr” that it would be someone with a background in biochemistry or nutrition or naturopathic medicine or something… anyway, I will keep looking 🙂

        • Oh no, not defensive, you know me when I feel rushed to provide an answer that I don’t have at the tip of my fingers. I first learned about it in nutrition class when I thought I wanted to be a nurse. They presented it like it was just normal as pie. Then a naturopath started in with a list of foods, which was awesome. To me, it makes as much sense as, if you drink coffee, you will have more energy for a little while. It’s not until you request more info that I ever even think that I should post sources for it. Ahhh…. Perspectives. lol. 😉

          I will come back to this blog and your resources when I get a chance. It’s a lot to sift through. I do know that Darl just can’t even believe that oranges aren’t an acid forming food. I try over and over to explain it’s not what the pH of the food is, it’s what it FORMS in our body. 🙂

          There’s a couple of power point presentations you can download. Usually I get my info from presentations. But I can’t provide links. A lot of sites host downloads but have no actual links to them. If you search the .edu sites and use the keywords acid forming food, that should help you see some of the pdfs and powerpoints I have. Or I could email them to you too.

  4. leanne

    Found a great article in Oxford Journals, link below, with overview of various research and good explanations of biochemistry / metabolic processes, and this general info re: effect of foods on urine pH:

    “The potential renal acid load of food products depends not only on their sulphur and phosphate content, but also on their potential base-forming alkali excess. As suggested by Remer et al. [2], the potential renal acid load of various foods can be predicted from the nutrient protein and mineral composition of the
    diet, adjusted for average intestinal net absorption rates of each mineral or protein. Based on these
    calculations, which correspond well to renal net acid excretion (NAE = titratable acid + NH4-HCO3) in
    healthy men, it becomes clear that different food stuffs can contribute markedly different amounts of acid to the daily net excretory load. Thus, while fruits and vegetables provide a net alkali load ranging from 1 to
    15 mEq per 100 g of edible products, meats, fish, dairy products, bread and rice provide net acid loads ranging from 3 to 20 mEq per 100 g of edible product.

    [2] Remer T, Manz F. Potential renal acid load of foods and its influence on urine pH. J Am Diet Assoc 1995; 95: 791-797”

    Fwiw, measurements of pH can be made on urine, saliva, blood (serum) and even magnetic resonance on tissue can be used (all yielding slighting different “normal” results, but generally in the neutral range, of course). Got the info from:

    The article ALSO explains why a lacto-vegetarian diet can ON ONE HAND support lower needs for the kidneys to process and rid the body of acid, there is a problem ON THE OTHER HAND in that that diet is TOO HIGH alkaline (too much potassium, which causes problems metabolically as much as too much acid). Like everything else in life, BALANCE is the key 🙂 Basically, if one ingests equal parts (by weight) of fruit/veggie as meat and bread for lunch, one is pH neutral in diet. The problem is most North American diets are excessively weighted in meat, dairy and wheat against intake of fruit / veggie. It should be EASY to intake EQUAL parts by weight – wow. SUPER EASY.

    Of course, this information is specific to actual food, and not chemicals. But at least I understand the biochemistry of the digestion and the elimination of acidic and alkaline foods now… I did find other articles that gave me pieces of this one in more detail, but this one pulled together the overview well (I think).

  5. leanne

    i thought you’d also be interested to know there’s a bunch of research metabolically linking high FRUCTOSE intake to increased acidity (uric acid) which can lead to metabolic syndrome, diabetes and/or heart disease… here’s one good abstract:

    *A causal role for uric acid in fructose-induced metabolic syndrome

    Takahiko Nakagawa,1 Hanbo Hu,1 Sergey Zharikov,1 Katherine R. Tuttle,2 Robert A. Short,2,3 Olena Glushakova,1 Xiaosen Ouyang,1 Daniel I. Feig,4 Edward R. Block,1 Jaime Herrera-Acosta,5,† Jawaharlal M. Patel,1 and Richard J. Johnson1

    1Division of Nephrology, Hypertension, and Transplantation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; 2Department of Research, The Heart Institute of Spokane, and 3Biostatistics, Washington State University, Spokane, Washington; 4Division of Nephrology-Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas; and 5Departamento de Nefrologia, Instituto Nacional de Cardiologia Ignacio Chavez, Tlalpan, Mexico

    Submitted 6 April 2005 ; accepted in final form 26 September 2005

    The worldwide epidemic of metabolic syndrome correlates with an elevation in serum uric acid as well as a marked increase in total fructose intake (in the form of table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup). Fructose raises uric acid, and the latter inhibits nitric oxide bioavailability. Because insulin requires nitric oxide to stimulate glucose uptake, we hypothesized that fructose-induced hyperuricemia may have a pathogenic role in metabolic syndrome. Four sets of experiments were performed. First, pair-feeding studies showed that fructose, and not dextrose, induced features (hyperinsulinemia, hypertriglyceridemia, and hyperuricemia) of metabolic syndrome. Second, in rats receiving a high-fructose diet, the lowering of uric acid with either allopurinol (a xanthine oxidase inhibitor) or benzbromarone (a uricosuric agent) was able to prevent or reverse features of metabolic syndrome. In particular, the administration of allopurinol prophylactically prevented fructose-induced hyperinsulinemia (272.3 vs.160.8 pmol/l, P < 0.05), systolic hypertension (142 vs. 133 mmHg, P < 0.05), hypertriglyceridemia (233.7 vs. 65.4 mg/dl, P < 0.01), and weight gain (455 vs. 425 g, P < 0.05) at 8 wk. Neither allopurinol nor benzbromarone affected dietary intake of control diet in rats. Finally, uric acid dose dependently inhibited endothelial function as manifested by a reduced vasodilatory response of aortic artery rings to acetylcholine. These data provide the first evidence that uric acid may be a cause of metabolic syndrome, possibly due to its ability to inhibit endothelial function. Fructose may have a major role in the epidemic of metabolic syndrome and obesity due to its ability to raise uric acid.*

    HFCS = evil

  6. leanne

    Also, as this literature review of the association between diet and metabolic acid Levels (by UC San Fran (2009) published in the British Journal of Nutrition) points out, there are not just the variables of the food ingested in terms of how they are metabolized in the creation / inhibition of either acidity or alkaline body fluids, but also “what else” is ingested (other variables external to the food), for example SALT (NaCl – sodium chloride):

    ” What should also be defined, at least broadly, is the net acid load of the diet, the primary topic of the present paper. Diet net acid load can be estimated from measurements of urinary excretion of ammonium, titratable acids and bicarbonate (called net acid excretion; NAE), or can be calculated from
    dietary constituents (called net endogenous acid production; NEAP). The techniques for measuring or quantifying the acid load of the diet will be discussed in a later section, but, in general, food contributes a net acid or base effect due to the balance between the acid-forming constituents, such as sulfuric acid produced from the catabolism of methionine and cystine in dietary proteins, and the baseforming
    constituents, for example, bicarbonate, produced from the metabolism of the K salts of organic anions
    in plant foods. As predicted by the Stewart hypothesis, sodium chloride appears to affect systemic acid–base status independently of the net acid load of the diet, perhaps by affecting renal excretion of Cl2/NH þ 4 , or by a strong ion effect(6). The effects of sodium chloride are especially relevant, given the high salt content of the typical diet in industrialised countries.”

    High amounts of salt actually increase acidity by influences separate from diet. AND, each person has their own “threshold” of sensitivity to salt (ranging from “particularly salt sensitive” to “salt resistant”), so that if three different people intake the same amount of salt, the (degree of) effects on each person (metabolically speaking) would be different! I didn’t know this! ALSO, the type of protein ingested metabolizes into different forms of acid, which result in different metabolic actions / reactions (this is described well in the first article I linked).

    “Although of course we do not know exactly what our hominid ancestors ate, studies in hunter–gatherer tribes suggest a relatively high intake of plant foods compared with modern-day humans(7). In a recent study estimating the net acid load (NEAP) of 159 hypothetical pre-agricultural diets, 87% were found to be base producing, with an estimated mean NEAP of negative 88 mEq/d. In comparison, calculations from the US Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) found the average American diet to be acid producing, with an NEAP of positive 48 mEq/d(8). This represents a switch from the net baseproducing diet we ate for the majority of our evolutionary history to the net acid-producing diet we have been eating for only several thousand years.”

    They conclude, however, that low-grade chronic acidosis from diet (versus acute critical acidosis from disease) *possibly* has some effect on the body over time, and that adjusting the diet will improve pH to normal levels but has not been proven to reverse any of the theorized negative consequences of low-normal pH (ie diet-induced “acidosis”).

    So, this answers all my questions – the exact metabolic process by which a particular food results in alkalinity or acidity in the body, how they determine the relative base-acid rating of particular foods, to what degree body pH is altered by any given food, and what a diet that yields base-acid balance looks like (the ASSUMPTION being one is eating real food and nothing processed with chemicals that influences in ways I don’t even care to get into – I’m *trying* to move into a “food only” diet, but it’s REALLY HARD).

  7. leanne

    I realize you are not a scientific blog, but since I asked those questions, and in case anyone else wanted to understand the specifics, posted this stuff – hope that’s okay! You can delete anything you want 🙂

  8. leanne

    One more variable which is SUPER COOL to know:

    Again, as a whole, meats have a “net positive acid” effect when metabolized – HOWEVER, just as with salt (sodium chloride) being an independent variable affecting the overall metabolic effect of food consumption and processing by the body, so too is the FAT that is consumed PROPORTIONAL to the protein in the “meat” being eaten! Again, it is UC San Fran research (Febraury 2010 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition):

    “In response to recent evidence suggesting that hunter-gatherers consumed more animal-based foods than previously thought, scientists at Leibniz University (Hanover, Germany) and the University of California, San Francisco studied dietary habits of 220 recently examined forager populations.

    … When lean muscle tissue (3% fat by weight) made up the bulk of the diet’s animal food content, 70% of the diets analyzed were net acid producing. HOWEVER, WHEN DIETS CONTAINED MORE ANIMAL FAT, 50% OR MORE WERE FOUND TO BE NET BASE-PRODUCING.” [caps for emphasis are MINE]

    So…. nothing is simple 1:1. Love my marbled meat – who’da thought I could be going alkaline by eating a nicely marbled slab of prime rib and green beans with almonds while going acidic with my skiness chicken breast?!?! lol (all potentially, as all NEAP values are typically “estimated” and not measured, even in research, for the record). Anyway, nothing is simple – thankfully, I love surprises 🙂

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