What Is Acesulfame Potassium?

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on July 14, 2023
3 min read

Acesulfame potassium is an artificial sweetener also known as Ace-K. The use of artificial sweeteners has been controversial given some of their potential health risks. But some of these sugar substitutes offer you a good way to cut back on the sweet stuff, and they have some health benefits, too.‌

Acesulfame potassium is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an alternative sweetener. More than 90 studies have been done that show it's safe to use.

You may see it listed on ingredient labels as:

  • Acesulfame K
  • Acesulfame potassium‌
  • Ace-K

Since it's more than 200 times sweeter than sugar, manufacturers can use far less acesulfame potassium, lowering the amount of calories and carbohydrates in a product. Ace-K is often combined with other artificial sweeteners and most often used in: 

  • Soda
  • Frozen desserts
  • Candies
  • Drinks
  • Baked goods 
  • Chewing gum
  • Sauces‌
  • Yogurt

Acesulfame potassium is sold under the brand names of Sunett and Sweet One. It keeps its sweetness at high temperatures, making it a good sweetener for baking.

As their name suggests, sugar substitutes are sweeteners used in place of traditional sugar. Some manufacturers refer to sweeteners in their products as "natural," even if the sweetener is processed or refined.

Acesulfame potassium is not natural. The only true natural sugar alternatives are:

  • Fruit juice
  • Nectar
  • Honey
  • Molasses‌
  • Maple syrup

Artificial sweeteners like acesulfame potassium are popular because they're often far sweeter than natural sugar, meaning you can use less in a recipe. They also offer some health benefits, including:

  • Weight management. A teaspoon of sugar has approximately 16 calories. This may not sound like much until you realize that the average soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar, which adds up to around 160 additional calories. As a sugar substitute, acesulfame potassium has 0 calories, allowing you to cut a lot of those extra calories from your diet. Fewer calories makes it easier for you to drop extra pounds or to stay at a healthy weight.‌
  • Diabetes. Artificial sweeteners don’t raise your blood sugar levels like sugar does. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about using artificial sweeteners before you use any.
  • Dental health. Sugar can contribute to tooth decay, but sugar substitutes like acesulfame potassium don’t.

Sugar substitutes like acesulfame potassium have had their critics. A single study completed in the 1970s showed a link between a single artificial sweetener, saccharin, to bladder cancer in lab rats. After this, the sweetener came with a warning label until the FDA determined that there wasn’t enough scientific evidence to back the theory that it could cause cancer in people. 

Acesulfame potassium has been deemed "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA. Still, some researchers are finding it could have negative health effects.

One study done on mice found that Ace-K caused weight gain and shifts in the gut microbiome, which could potentially lead to obesity and chronic inflammation. But we need more studies to see if these effects happen in humans as well.

Understand serving sizes. The FDA recommends using a maximum of 15 milligrams of Ace-K per one kilogram of your body weight each day. For a 132-pound person, this equates to 0.9 grams of acesulfame potassium in a day. To compare sweetness levels, that would equate to around 200 grams, or half a pound of sugar, per day. 

Since foods containing artificial sweeteners are often processed, they're less healthy than natural foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs, lean meat, and whole grains. Don't be swayed by products that advertise as "low sugar." These foods can still be high in calories, and you should eat them in moderation.‌

Potassium content. Don't be confused by the name: acesulfame potassium doesn't offer much potassium, an essential mineral for your health. One packet of acesulfame potassium has around 10 milligrams of potassium. To compare, one banana has roughly 400 milligrams. On average, most people get around 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams of potassium daily from the foods we eat.

Allergic reactions. The FDA has concluded that there are no claims of allergic reactions to acesulfame potassium. Still, it’s a possibility. If you think you’re having a negative reaction to acesulfame potassium, stop using it immediately and talk to your doctor.