For whatever reason, it seems I have had numerous people asking me recently about sucralose which is included in the brand name Splenda. If you have spent any time reading my blogs or talking with me, you have learned that I recommend that you do your best to stay away from ALL artificial sweeteners, but particularly aspartame (Nutrisweet), saccharin (Sweet-N-Low), or sucralose (Splenda). Since I just recently had someone ask me to justify my lack of use of sucralose, I thought it would be a great topic to blog about. So here goes.
Here in our country, we seem to have a rampant sweet tooth. In fact, in her book, The Virgin Diet, author and nutrition expert JJ Virgin writes, “We eat 140 pounds of sugar a year, but 10,000 years ago we only ate 22 teaspoons a year (The Virgin Diet, p. 126).” As you can see, this is a factor that is contributing greatly to the rise in obesity. Why then would I recommend staying away from things like Splenda if it is essentially calorie free? Splenda has become a popular sweetener these days as it is marketed everywhere because it is the only zero-calorie sweetener “made from sugar.” Let me remind you that not all calories are created equal and just because something claims to have zero-calories doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some effect on your body. Before we go much further, let’s look at the history of sucralose.
Sucralose was first approved for the use as a food additive by the FDA in 1998. However, sucralose was discovered long before that. In 1975, at Queen Elizabeth College in London, a graduate student was trying to create pesticides using chlorinated sugar molecules. Somehow in the midst of communication, the student incorrectly heard his professor and believed him to say “taste” the compound, rather than “test” the compound. After this taste test, he found it was surprisingly sweet, actually upon testing it is almost 600x sweeter than sugar. Due to the sweetness, the compound was then looked at as an artificial sweetener.
Here is where things get a little tricky. Splenda is advertised as having the same reactions in your body as salt. The problem is that salt is an ionic bond that is easily breakable and the bonds created in sucralose are covalent bonds which are not easily breakable. In fact, sucralose more closely mimics DDT, PCB’s, and other harsh chemical pesticides in it’s structure. Those are some of the same ones that have been previously banned as they were dangerous to human health.
After being asked about studies regarding sucralose by a local acupuncturist, I did a little research on that as well. According to the FDA, sucralose has been the subject of over 110 studies, both human and animal. Before we go too far, remember this is the same FDA that allows for the sale of lots of toxic products and is not in the business of making sure you are healthy. Here is the truth on the studies. Of the 110, 84 studies are available to the public for review. According to a report by Integrated Supplements, “Of these studies, only 15 were safety studies and only 5 of these were safety studies performed on humans…thelongest human toxicity study only lasted 13weeks(Integrated Supplements Newsletter, June 7, Vol 1, Issue 6.) Realistically, there has been no definitive long term study on the toxicity of Splenda and sucralose. Here is the conundrum, at the same time, because there hasn’t been a long-term study, it would be impossible to say that Splenda is 100% toxic for you as well.
Here is what we do know for sure. One study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health did note that Splenda decreased the amount of good probiotic bacteria in the animals tested by up to 50%, increased the pH level in the intestines and ultimately led to more weight gain. In addition to this, other studies have shown that those who use artificial sweeteners note an increase in the risk of obesity. As well, you could look at the numerous health issues that others have noted when using Splenda which can include:
- Muscles Aches
- Stomach and intestinal cramps
- Bladder Problems
In addition to this, why not just use a little common sense? Have we ever taken a product or something that occurs naturally in nature, altered it’s chemical structure in a lab, and made it MORE healthy for you? I really can’t think of one.
Ultimately, it is your decision what you put into your body. You are more than welcome to use sucralose. No one will stop you at this point in time. However, I’d think twice about using it or giving it to my kids.
Yours in Health,
Dr. James Ashley, DC