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  • Writer's pictureJoan Rothchild Hardin

Artificial Sweeteners in Us, Our Rivers, Lakes & Tap Water


Artificial sweeteners are used in over 6,000 processed foods and drinks sold around the world. Here’s a list of their chemical names along with their brand names from Dr Oz: ACESULFAME POTASSIUM ACK Ace K Equal Spoonful (also +aspartame) Sweet One Sunett ASPARTAME APM AminoSweet (but not in US) Aspartyl-phenylalanine-1-methyl ester Canderel (not in US) Equal Classic NatraTaste Blue NutraSweet ASPARTAME-ACESULFAME SALT TwinSweet (Europe only) CYCLAMATE Not in US as per FDA Calcium cyclamate Cologran = cyclamate and saccharin; not in US Sucaryl ERYTHRITOL Sugar alcohol Zerose ZSweet GLYCEROL Glycerin Glycerine GLYCYRRHIZIN Licorice HYDROGENATED STARCH HYDROLYSATE (HSH) Sugar alcohol ISOMALT Sugar alcohol ClearCut Isomalt Decomalt DiabetiSweet (also contains Acesulfame-K) Hydrogenated Isomaltulose Isomaltitol LACTITOL Sugar alcohol MALTITOL Sugar alcohol Maltitol Syrup Maltitol Powder Hydrogenated High Maltose Content Glucose Syrup Hydrogenated Maltose Lesys MaltiSweet (hard to find online to buy) SweetPearl MANNITOL Sugar alcohol NEOTAME POLYDEXTROSE Sugar alcohol (Derived from glucose and sorbitol) SACCHARIN Acid saccharin Equal Saccharin Necta Sweet Sodium Saccharin Sweet N Low Sweet Twin SORBITOL Sugar alcohol D-glucitol D-glucitol syrup SUCRALOSE 1′,4,6′-Trichlorogalactosucrose Trichlorosucrose Equal Sucralose NatraTaste Gold Splenda TAGATOSE Natrulose XYLITOL Sugar alcohol Smart Sweet Xylipure Xylosweet – Oz, 2014 Other brand names may have gone on the market since Dr Oz’s list was published, in March of 2014. For example, aspartame has been rebranded as a so-called “natural sweetener” named AminoSweet.


WHERE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS GO AFTER THEY PASS THROUGH OUR BODIES These chemical sugar substitutes are manufactured to register as sweetness in our mouths but then pass through the body without ever being broken down (except aspartame, which is therefore particularly poisonous). Ever wonder what happens to them after they get excreted from our bodies? They work their way through the sewer systems to waste water treatment plants, which are also unable to break down these complex chemicals. So most artificial sweeteners pass out of water treatment plants in virtually the same form in which they were consumed. Scientists have found the presence of artificial sweeteners in water leaving treatment plants – and also in ground water, surface waters (rivers, lakes, and oceans around the world), and tap water. (Boxall, 2013), (HealthFreedoms, 2015), (Science Daily, 2009)




Before these artificial sweeteners reach water treatment plants, while they’re still working their way through our GI tracts, they’re also upsetting the critical equilibrium of the probiotic microbes living in our intestines, the ones that are the primary regulators of our immune functions and overall health.


Results from an Israeli study, published in Nature in 2014, found both mice and humans who consumed artificial sweeteners developed adverse alterations in their gut microbiomes along with glucose intolerance, changes consistent with metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes).

In the part of the study on human subjects, researchers asked people who didn’t usually consume artificial sweeteners to add them to their diet for seven days. It took only one week for these people to develop a poorer glycemic response. (Faherty, 2014) (Suez et al, 2014)


More bad news about artificial sweeteners: The changes they produce in the composition of your gut bacteria can actually make you gain weight! And here you thought you were using these sweeteners in your tea, eating diet processed foods, and drinking ‘lite’ soft drinks so you could keep your weight down.

“Our relationship with our own individual mix of gut bacteria is a huge factor in determining how the food we eat affects us,” says Eran Elinav, MD, of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s department of immunology. “Especially intriguing is the link between use of artificial sweeteners—through the bacteria in our guts—to a tendency to develop the very disorders they were designed to prevent; this calls for reassessment of today’s massive, unsupervised consumption of these substances.” (Merz, 2014)


WHAT DO YOU SUPPOSE THESE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS IN OUR WATERS DO TO MARINE LIFE? Some researchers have used some clever thinking to track the path of artificial sweeteners after they exit our bodies: measure their amounts in treated sewage sludge or, further down the line, in rivers, lakes, and drinking water taps. Here are three examples: In a 2013 Canadian study, researchers found artificial sweeteners in Ontario’s Grand River in amounts equivalent to about 81,000 – 190,000 cans of artificially sweetened soda flowing through its waters EACH DAY. (Spoelstra et al, 2013) The 300-kilometre river empties into Lake Erie. Lake Erie empties into Lake Ontario (via Niagara Falls), then into the Saint Lawrence Seaway and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean.

The study tested for the presence of only four artificial sweeteners: sucralose, cyclamate, saccharin and acesulfame. (You can check their brand names in Dr Oz’s list above.) It also found three types of sweetener coming out of the water faucets in Brantford, a town along the river. Brantford’s water supply comes from the Grand River before being treated at the town’s water treatment plant. Grand River, Brantford, Ontario


Amy Parente, a biochemistry professor at Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA, conducted her own study in Lake Erie looking for sucralose (used in Splenda).  Her team also found the sweetener in the water. Unlike the Canadian study which tested water coming out of waste water treatment plants, Parente’s group tested the water at Lake Erie beaches, after it had had a chance to dilute. She and her team found 0.15 micrograms of the sweetener for every liter of water. This translates to up to 72 metric tons of sweetener in the waters of Lake Erie. Since Parente’s results came out in 2012, she and her students have been looking at how sucralose affects a foraging snail living in Lake Erie’s waters.  They found the presence of sweetener fooled the animals into believing there was nutrition in the water, leaving them with fewer calories to grow healthily and reproduce. This could well be true for other foraging animals – and the impact would have a domino effect. (HealthFreedoms, 2015)


A third study, published in 2014 by Environmental Science and Technology (a publication of the American Chemical Society), found large amounts of sucralose, saccharin, aspartame and acesulfame in sludge collected from two waste water treatment plants around Albany, NY.

The authors suggest that artificial sweetener could harm plants’ ability to perform photosynthesis, leading to less food for animals dependent on plants, creating a ripple effect all the way along the food chain. (Subedi & Kannan, 2014)

Albany’s Waste Water Sludge – Contains Artificial Sweeteners


After reviewing all this research on artificial sweeteners’ adverse impact on our health and the environment, I’m hard pressed to think of any good use for them.


REFERENCES Boxall, B. (2013). Artificial sweeteners found in river water and drinking supplies. Los Angeles Times. See: Faherty, S. (2014). Artificial Sweeteners May Have Despicable Impacts on Gut Microbes. Scientific American Blog Network. See: HealthFreedoms. (2015). Rivers, Lakes Loaded With Artificial Sweeteners, Researchers Say. See: Merz, J. (2014). This Is How Diet Soda Can Make You Gain Weight: New research suggests that gut bacteria are the missing link between artificial sweeteners and metabolic diseases. See: Oz, A. (2014). List of Names for Artificial Sweeteners. See: Science Daily. (2009). Artificial Sweeteners May Contaminate Water Downstream Of Sewage Treatment Plants And Even Drinking Water. See: Spoelstra, J. et al. (2013). Artificial Sweeteners in a Large Canadian River Reflect Human Consumption in the Watershed. PLOS/One. See: Subedi, B. & Kannan, K. (2014).  Fate of Artificial Sweeteners in Wastewater Treatment Plants in New York State, U.S.A. .Environmental Science & Technology, 48: 23, 13668–13674. See: Suez, J. et at. (2014).  Nature. See: © Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Comments submitted prior to 8/25/2021

Scary! Only use agave, maple syrup and stevia,mall sparingly. And began sugar when I bake. Thanks for all the info, especially how they end up in the water supply!


Our waters have been contaminated for years always boil your water and leave to cool it’s serious

Natalie gentile


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