What is Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-k)?
Recent studies show that, on average, 17 percent of children's daily caloric intake comes from sugar . With high sugar consumption directly linked to diabetes and a myriad of other health problems, it is no surprise that many families find themselves searching for alternatives to high-sugar treats. Nor is it any surprise that most of the readily-available treats they find contain artificial sweeteners.
As a high-quality grass-fed whey producer that prides itself in our knowledge of biochemistry, our natural sugar stance is neutral. In moderation, raw sugar within a whole food is terrific and completely healthy. The issue with high-sugar treats is that the sugar is refined, stripped clean from the source, and isolated from the supporting fibers and nutrients that are otherwise available within the wholefood in which the sugar originates.
It wasn't that long ago when activists began pushing the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to classify sugar as a drug that requires regulation on the premise that, similar to other drugs, sugar is addictive and stimulates the brain.
Instead of the war on sugar spending their resources on educating the public around the impacts of refined sugars with a clear distinction from natural wholefood sugars, inculcation towards high-intensity sweeteners became the path of choice from the highest bidding lobbyist.
Chief among these high-intensity sweeteners is acesulfame potassium. But what is acesulfame potassium, really, and how safe is it?
Here are the facts -
What Is Acesulfame Potassium?
Acesulfame potassium is a type of potassium salt. It is a white crystalline powder 200 times sweeter than sugar that is commonly used as an artificial sweetener in foods and drinks. Other names for acesulfame potassium include:
- Acesulfame K
What Is Acesulfame Potassium Used In?
Acesulfame potassium is one of the most stable artificial sweeteners on the market. With a melting point of 437 degrees Fahrenheit, it is ideal for baked goods and shelf-stable products such as protein cookies and protein bars.
Its intense sweetness also means that only small amounts are necessary to sweeten a product. Combined with the fact that it has no caloric value, it is a popular choice for beverages as well.
In addition to being sold straight as a sugar alternative, Ace-K can regularly be found in:
- Diet sodas
- Fruit juices
- Alcoholic beverages
- Dairy products
- Protein powders and shakes
- Sauces, dressings, and marinades
- Powdered drink mixes
- Baked goods
- Dessert mixes
- Frozen desserts, including ice cream
- Fruit spreads such as jams and jellies
- Personal care products including toothpaste & mouthwash
Acesulfame potassium mixes well with other artificial sugars. It is often used in combination in commercial products, as this can mask the bitter aftertaste that artificial sweeteners have when used alone.
While Ace-K shows up on ingredient lists, no special warnings or notices of its presence are required by law on product packaging or food labels. As such, many Americans consume it daily without being aware of the fact.
Is Acesulfame Potassium Bad for You?
Acesulfame potassium is one of six artificial sweeteners approved for use in the American food supply by the FDA. Legally, it is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) and has been since 1988. It is also approved for use in other countries by:
- The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
- The FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)
- Health Canada
- The Scientific Committee for Food of the European Union
FDA guidelines state that adults can reasonably consume up to 15 mg of Ace-K per kilogram of their body weight per day. Realistically, this amount would be difficult to consume either intentionally or unintentionally due to the tiny amounts in which it appears in commercial products and its intense sweetness.
These safety findings may be supported by the fact that, technically, the human body does not metabolize Ace-K at all. Instead, it absorbs the product and then excretes it, still in its original form, during urination.
Wait a minute, if this is true, doesn't this mean the urine that contains acesulfame potassium is also sweet? This question we'll leave right here and see what the internet says.
All this said, many consumers and consumer health and protection agencies continue to have concerns about the product's safety.
Is Acesulfame Potassium Safe for Diabetics?
Traditionally, artificial sweeteners have been marketed to diabetics as a safer alternative to sugar.
More recent studies demonstrate that Ace-K specifically may not be a good choice for diabetics, however. Research shows that  :
- Artificial sweeteners disrupt blood sugar regulation and insulin production
- Artificial sweeteners disrupt appetite regulation and natural bodily weight control mechanisms
- Consuming artificial sweeteners may promote obesity, metabolic syndrome, and the development of diabetes
- Consuming acesulfame potassium may cause gut cells to absorb higher amounts of sugar
- Consuming acesulfame potassium can cause a "rebound" effect in which the body dumps large amounts of insulin into a person's system in response to perceived sweetness
For all of these reasons, diabetics should consume acesulfame potassium with caution if they choose to use it at all.
Is Acesulfame Potassium Safe for Pregnant Women?
There are no formal guidelines on the consumption of acesulfame potassium during pregnancy. Since the FDA rated the product GRAS, most doctors do not consider it a problem for pregnant women.
However, research suggests that Ace-K consumption may cause pregnant women to deliver prematurely.
Emerging evidence suggests that babies born to women who consume the product may be predisposed to crave sweet foods, which could lead to disordered eating habits and unhealthy lifestyles as they grow .
Research also shows that when mothers consume acesulfame potassium, even in small doses, it passes through breast milk directly to nursing infants. Whether or not this is safe for nursing babies has yet to be be concluded.
Does Acesulfame Potassium Make Breast Milk Sweet?
Although considered completely safe at normal levels of consumption, it is true that when a mother consumed Ace-K, her breast milk will be sweeter.
The only issue that arises in extreme cases are the studies that show evidence that increasing the sweetness of breastmilk by maternal ingestion of various sweeteners is associated with increased risk of excess weight gain later in the child's development due to dependency on sweeter nutrition .
Can People Have an Acesulfame Potassium Allergy?
Individuals can react to any food product for a variety of reasons. To date, however, there is no data to suggest that there are any allergy concerns related to isolated acesulfame potassium.
Does Acesulfame Potassium Cause Cancer?
Whether or not artificial sweeteners in general and acesulfame potassium in particular cause cancer continues to be a source of ongoing controversy .
The initial research into acesulfame potassium at the time of its FDA approval did not show any indication that acesulfame potassium causes cancer in any amount.
Establishments like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) have questioned the validity and methods of those studies, but ongoing animal studies have yet to show any possible link between consumption of acesulfame potassium and cancer.
Is Acesulfame Potassium Keto?
Since acesulfame potassium is not absorbed by the body and has zero caloric value, it can qualify as a keto food. It is not appropriate for individuals eating paleo- or primal-compliant keto diets, however. Given its "rebound" effect on insulin, it may also be inappropriate for diabetics using the keto diet to control their diabetes.
Learn More: Whey Protein & Ketosis
Will Ace-K Knock You Out of Ketosis?
Individuals interested in whether or not acesulfame potassium is keto often specifically wonder if consuming a product containing Ace-K will break their ketosis run. Unfortunately, there is black or white answer to that question.
Rather, the answer depends on:
- What type of fast you are doing
- What other ingredients are also present in the product you want to consume
- How keto-adapted your body is
In most cases, if the product does break your fast, it will not be the Ace-K that does it as acesulfame potassium has no caloric value.
Is Acesulfame Potassium Vegetarian or Vegan-Friendly?
Acesulfame potassium is a mineral salt. As such, it does not contain any animal ingredients whatsoever. It is both vegetarian and vegan-diet friendly.
Does Consuming Acesulfame Potassium Have Any Side-Effects?
There are some potential causes for concern about the consumption of acesulfame potassium.
First, methylene chloride is used in the production of acesulfame potassium. Methylene chloride:
- May be carcinogenic
- Disrupts human vision, hearing, and motor functions
- Can damage the central nervous system
Consuming Ace-K may expose humans to methylene chloride and all its detrimental effects.
Second, in animal studies, acesulfame potassium is linked to neurological problems and reduced brain functioning. It is possible that it could have the same effect on humans, but current research is insufficient and cannot say for sure either way.
Third, some consumers report negative effects upon ingestion such as getting an acesulfame potassium headache or acesulfame potassium diarrhea. While the exact cause of these reactions is not well documented, their occurrence is wide-spread.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, like other artificial sweeteners, acesulfame potassium disrupts metabolism and inhibits healthy gut function . This can contribute to serious health problems, including:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Appetite dysregulation
- Blood sugar imbalances
Are Acesulfame Potassium and Aspartame the Same?
No. Both acesulfame potassium and aspartame are artificial sweeteners approved for human consumption by the FDA. Both have about the same degree of sweetness.
But aspartame is a methyl ester instead of a potassium salt. Aspartame was approved by the FDA around twenty years before acesulfame potassium and is less stable and therefore is used in different commercial products.
Is Acesulfame Potassium Safe for Dogs?
Unlike xylitol, acesulfame potassium is not toxic to pets. It is not recommended for pet consumption and excessive exposure may lead to gastrointestinal distress. But in small amounts or in the case of accidental exposure, you do not need to worry about your pets consuming products that contain ace-K.
Want to Learn More -
What is acesulfame potassium? One of six artificial (high-intensity sweeteners) sweeteners approved by the FDA that may or may not have a place in your diet.
FDA Approved Artificial Sweeteners (as food additives) in the U.S.A. Include:
- Saccharin (E954)
- Aspartame (E951)
- Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K, E950)
- Sucralose (E955)
- Neotame (E961)
- Advantame (E969)
*GRAS notices for Stevia & Monk Fruit have been submitted to the FDA.