Perception of Artificial Sweeteners’ Health Risk and Benefits
A. Bearth1, M.E. Cousin1, M. Siegrist1
1ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Artificial sweeteners offer a variety of health benefits compared to conventional sugar in terms of energy density, nutritive value or tooth decay prophylaxis. However, many people hesitate to consume artificially sweetened products due to their perception of potential health risks. Thus, the goal of this study was twofold: to investigate people’s health risk and benefit perceptions and to identify important predictors for avoiding or using artificial sweeteners. A mixed method design was applied. Firstly, in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 6 experts and 17 consumers. Secondly, a quantitative survey was conducted (N = 487, 45% male, Mage = 56). The following variables were included in the questionnaire: risk and benefit perceptions, avoidance, trust in regulators, and knowledge of the risk assessment process. Based on the survey data, a model predicting risk and benefit perceptions and avoidance was subjected to path analysis, identifying knowledge and trust as important predictors. The study offers insights into people’s risk and benefit perceptions and reasons for avoiding artificial sweeteners, despite their health benefits.