Background: Observational investigations into the health impacts of low-calorie sweeteners (LCSs) in humans fail to adequately identify or fully characterize LCS consumption.
Objectives: We aimed to utilize a novel biomarker approach to investigate exposure to 5 LCSs and to test whether reported low-calorie sweetened beverage (LCSB) consumption effectively identifies exposure to LCSs in adults.
Methods: In this cross-sectional analysis, 2 population studies were conducted in adults. Urinary excretions of 5 LCSs, namely acesulfame-K, saccharin, cyclamate, sucralose, and steviol glycosides, were simultaneously determined using LC tandem-MS. In Study 1, previously collected 24-h urine samples (n = 357) were analyzed. In Study 2, previously collected 24-h urine samples (n = 79) were analyzed to compare urinary excretions of LCSs with self-reported LCSB consumption for identifying LCS exposure. Exposure to LCSs was characterized using descriptive statistics and chi-square tests were performed to assess associations between age-groups and LCS excretion, and to assess the proportion of individuals identified as LCS consumers using biomarker data or reported LCSB consumption.
Results: A total of 341 adults (45% men) and 79 adults (39% men) were included in the final analysis of Studies 1 and 2, respectively. In Study 1, >96% of samples contained ≥1 LCS and almost 60% contained ≥3 LCSs. A greater proportion of younger adults (<40 y old) excreted ≥3 LCSs than older adults (>40 y old) (P < 0.001). In Study 2, a much higher prevalence of LCS consumption was observed using biomarker data (92%) than reported LCSB consumption (6%) (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: This work indicates widespread exposure to LCSs, suggesting that population-based research to date into LCS exposure and health may be flawed. Therefore, a urinary biomarker approach offers considerable potential for more robust investigations in this area.
- Low-calorie sweeteners
- non-nutritive sweeteners
- steviol glycosides
- steviol glucuronide