If you're trying to lose weight, avoiding sugar is one of the best ways to reduce your calorie intake. Many dieters use artificial sweeteners and artificially sweetened foods as a way to cut sugar without eliminating all things sweet. However, not all artificial sweeteners are calorie free. In fact, some have almost as many calories as sugar. They're also somewhat controversial. Although the manufacturers' Web sites and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say that artificial­ sweeteners are perfectly safe, some consumer groups and physicians disagree.

Even if you try to avoid artificial sweeteners, you may still be consuming them in products you've never considered. Did you know that artificial sweeteners are in your toothpaste, mouthwash, chewable vitamins and cough drops?

In this article, we'll look at how artificial sweeteners came about, how they're used and how they're approved. We'll also examine the individual sweeteners and learn about the controversies surrounding them.

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