Low-Calorie Sweeteners Do Not Affect Kidney Function

The Calorie Control Council is concerned about a study presented at an October 2009 meeting of the American College of Nephrology in San Diego, at which presenters allege that “artificially sweetened soda”(diet sodas) impact kidney function or otherwise cause kidney problems or kidney damage. However, the study findings do not reflect the scientific literature confirming the safety and benefits of low-calorie sweeteners and the products that contain them.

  • It is important to note that this is not a published study and it has not been peer reviewed.
  • This allegation that “artificially sweetened soda” (diet soda) impacts kidney function is contrary to numerous published studies on the use of low calorie sweeteners and the lack of an effect on kidney function or in causing kidney problems or kidney damage. For example, three recent published studies found no effect on kidney function.
  • A study published in 2008 found that diet colas are not associated with albuminuria, a sensitive marker of kidney disease. In this study, the researchers examined data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999- 2004. This survey contains data on 9358 individuals.
  • A study published in 2009 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined 447 participants with pre-existent chronic kidney disease and found that diet soda consumption was not associated with progression of kidney disease. A third published study (2009) found that diet soda is no different than bottled water with respect to kidney stone formation.
  • It is unclear if women with diabetes are included in the study. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes can damage the kidneys.
  • A study presented in 2009 at the American Urological Association annual meeting noted that drinking diet sodas, especially those with a citrus flavor, might help ward off painful calcium deposits known as kidney stones. More about diet sodas and kidney benefits here.

The low-calorie sweeteners used in diet drinks are very sweet, 200 to 600 times sweeter than sugar, and are, therefore, used in extremely small amounts. Studies have shown, for example, that those who use low-calorie sweeteners, including those in diet sodas or other diet drinks, consume less than 10% of the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) set by the US Food and Drug Administration for aspartame.

Aspartame, either used alone or in combination with other low-calorie sweeteners, is the most common low-calorie sweetener found in diet sodas today. Aspartame never reaches the kidneys or other body organ. It is made up of two amino acids (the building blocks of protein), phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and a small amount of methanol. A serving of non-fat milk provides about 6 times more phenylalanine and 13 times more aspartic acid that an aspartame-sweetened beverage. There is 6 times more methanol in a serving of tomato juice than in the same amount of an aspartame-sweetened beverage.

For more information on low-calorie sweeteners, please visit www.caloriecontrol.org.

References:

American Diabetes Association. Kidney Disease (Nephropathy). http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/kidney-disease-nephropathy.html

Bomback, AS, et al. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and the progression of chronic kidney disease in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009, 90:1172-8.

Passman, CM, et al. Effect of soda consumption on urinary stone risk parameters. Journal of Endourology, 2009, 23(3):347-350.

Shoham, DA, et al. Sugary soda consumption and albuminuria: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004. PloS ONE 3(10): e3431. doi:101371/journal.pone.0003431.