E950

Acesulfame K

  • Our verdict: 4 - we recommend avoiding
  • Origin: It is produced synthetically and does not come from natural sources.

Acesulfame K, also known as E950, is a calorie‑free artificial sweetener commonly used in a variety of foods and beverages. This compound is approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar), allowing it to be used in minimal amounts to achieve the desired sweetness. It is stable at high temperatures and in acidic conditions, making it suitable for a wide range of culinary and food applications.

Origin

Acesulfame K is of artificial origin. It is synthesized by a chemical process involving the reaction of acetoacetic acid and fluorosulfonyl cyanate. The process produces a stable, crystalline substance that readily dissolves in water, making it versatile for various formulations in the food industry.

Characteristics and uses in the food industry

Acesulfame K is used in the food industry due to several advantageous properties:

  • High sweetness: approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Stability at high temperatures: It maintains its sweetness even at high temperatures, suitable for baking and cooking.
  • pH stability: Stable in acidic and alkaline conditions, ideal for carbonated drinks and fruit juices.
  • Synergistic effects with other sweeteners: When combined with other sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose, it increases overall sweetness and masks unpleasant aftertaste.
  • 0 calories: Provides sweetness without adding calories, which is advantageous for low‑calorie and diet products.
  • Does not cause tooth decay: Does not contribute to tooth decay.

Use in ultra‑processed foods

Acesulfame K is widely used in ultra‑processed foods for a variety of reasons:

  • Calorie reduction: It enables the production of low- or no‑calorie versions of products such as soft drinks, baked goods and dairy products, which appeals to health‑conscious consumers.
  • Enhancing sweetness: only minimal amounts are needed due to the high sweetness, which maintains product texture and volume without adding calories, ideal for sugar‑free candies and chewing gum.
  • Money saving: Despite a higher price per kilogram than sugar, due to its efficiency it requires less volume, leading to cost savings in bulk production, especially in beverages and processed foods.
  • Extended shelf life: Stable under a variety of conditions, including heat and acidity, it maintains product quality for longer, extending shelf life for items such as carbonated beverages and flavored yogurts.
  • Influencing eating habits: By offering sweet flavours without calories, it satisfies cravings and influences consumer choice towards perceived healthier options, which may increase consumption of ultra‑processed foods.
  • Flavour: When combined with other sweeteners, it enhances sweetness and masks aftertaste, improving the flavour profiles of products ranging from soft drinks to confectionery.
  • Dental Safety: It does not cause tooth decay and is suitable for tooth‑friendly foods such as chewing gum and sugar‑free candies, appealing to both consumers and manufacturers for its oral health benefits.

Impact on human health

Although Acesulfame K is approved by food safety authorities such as the FDA and EFSA, there are some health considerations:

  • Increase in sweet cravings: Some research suggests that regular consumption of high‑intensity sweeteners may increase cravings for sweet foods. This could potentially lead to higher overall calorie intake and weight gain, which would counteract the benefits of using a calorie‑free sweetener.
  • Metabolic effects: Some studies suggest that Acesulfame K may stimulate the insulin response despite being calorie‑free. This could potentially interfere with normal metabolic processes and glucose regulation. However, the clinical relevance of this effect is still debated and requires further research.
  • Cancer risk: While animal studies have raised concerns about a possible link between high doses of artificial sweeteners and cancer, extensive reviews and assessments by regulatory authorities have not found convincing evidence that Acesulfame K poses a cancer risk at levels consumed by humans.
  • Gut health: There is evidence to suggest that artificial sweeteners, including Acesulfame K, may alter the composition of the gut microbiota. These changes could potentially affect gut health, inflammation and overall metabolism. The long‑term consequences of these changes are still under investigation.
  • Headaches: Some individuals report headaches after consuming products containing Acesulfame K. However, these reports are anecdotal and scientific studies consistently do not support a direct causal link.
  • Long‑term impact: Ongoing research is necessary to fully understand the long‑term health effects of regular consumption of Acesulfame K, especially in high amounts.

Sources

  1. FDA - Food Additive Status List: FDA website
  2. EFSA - Scientific Opinion on the re‑evaluation of Acesulfame K: EFSA Journal
  3. Clauss, K., & Jensen, H. (1967). "Process for preparing 6‑methyl‑1,2,3‑oxathiazine‑4(3H)-ones." US Patent 3,462,423.
  4. Magnuson, B. A., et al. (2016). "Aspartame, neotame, and acesulfame‑K intake and risk of cancer: a systematic review and meta‑analysis of observational studies." PLoS One.
  5. Grotz, V. L., & Munro, I. C. (2009). "An overview of the safety of sucralose." Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.
  6. Palmnäs, M. S., Cowan, T. E., Bomhof, M. R., Su, J., Reimer, R. A., Vogel, H. J., & Shearer, J. (2014). "Low‑dose aspartame consumption differentially affects gut microbiota‑host metabolic interactions in the diet‑induced obese rat". PLoS One, 9(10), e109841. doi:10,1371/journal.pone.0109841