A novel urinary biomarker approach reveals widespread exposure to multiple low-calorie sweeteners in adults: LCS exposure in adults via a biomarker approach

Caomhan Logue, L Dowey, Hans Verhagen, J J Strain, Maeve O'Mahony, Maria Kapsokefalou, Adelais Athanasatou, Alison M Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2435–2441
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number9
Early online date17 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition 2020.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Low-calorie sweeteners
  • non-nutritive sweeteners
  • Biomarkers
  • acesulfame-k
  • saccharin
  • cyclamates
  • steviol glycosides
  • steviol glucuronide
  • sucralose


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