With obesity and diabetes on the rise, many Americans are actively seeking to understand the role of sugars and sweeteners in their diet. Sugar is found naturally in many foods, while added to others. As a carbohydrate, sugar contains calories and is therefore a source of fuel for the body. Consumers looking to reduce their calories while still satisfying their sweet tooth are turning to foods and beverages that contain natural and artificial sweeteners, such as stevia and Sucralose.
Sucralose is a no-calorie artificial sweetener that is made from sugar, but is about 600 times as sweet as sugar without the calories of sugar, or the bitter aftertaste common with other popular sweeteners. Due to its sweet, sugar-like taste and stability, Sucralose can be used as a replacement for sugar in virtually every type of food. Commonly known as the brand name Splenda, Sucralose is the generic name. Over the past 20 years, researchers have conducted more than 100 scientific studies on Sucralose safety. Sucralose is one of the most tested food ingredients today and has been proven safe. Sucralose is one of the most commonly consumed low-calorie sweeteners available on the market today, and is a great choice for health-conscious individuals who are looking for a safe dose of sweet without the potential health burden and calories of traditional sugars.
- THE DIFFERENCE IN SUGARS AND SWEETENERS
The average American diet is packed with high-fat, high-calorie foods that wreak havoc on the waistline and overall health. As the risks of a sugar-packed diet have become well documented, many people are left to wonder what the differences are between sugars, and whether or not they should ditch sugar all together.
Sugar can be confusing, but simply put, all sugars are a source of fuel for the body. The difference between sugars is how the body digests and absorbs them.
In the United States, some common types of sugars are glucose, fructose, and sucrose.
This is the body’s main source of energy, found in foods such as pasta, whole grain bread, legumes and a range of vegetables.
This ‘fruit sugar’ is found in foods such as fruit, honey, some vegetables, and soft drinks.
Generally referred to as ‘table sugar’ sucrose chemically consists of glucose plus fructose. It is a common form of sugar found in sugarcane, some fruits and vegetables, and products which have been sweetened such as cereal, ice cream, baked desserts and yogurt.
All added sugars are void of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, and all contribute to unwanted calories and tooth decay.
In addition to sugars, two other sweeteners used commonly in the United States are stevia and Sucralose.
Comes from a plant native to South America and is used in soft drinks and juices.
This no-calorie artificial sweetener is made from sugar.
- WHAT IS SUCRALOSE?
In our sugar-saturated society many consumers are turning to artificial sweeteners, like Sucralose, to satisfy their sweet tooth.
Sucralose is a no-calorie artificial sweetener that is made from sugar. Commonly known as the brand name Splenda, Sucralose is the generic name. Sucralose is made from sugar in a chemical process where 3 hydrogen-oxygen groups are replaced with chlorine atoms. The result is a sweetener that is about 600 times as sweet as sugar without the calories of sugar, or the bitter aftertaste common with other popular sweeteners. Due to its sweet, sugar-like taste and stability, Sucralose can be used as a replacement for sugar in virtually every type of food, and unlike other artificial sweeteners, it can be used in baked and fried foods.
Sucralose was discovered in 1976 when a British research scientist misheard instructions and tasted a substance instead of testing it. He realized that it was highly sweet. Sucralose, or Splenda products were developed by Johnson & Johnson and Tate & Lyle and Sucralose was introduced in the US in 1999. The FDA approved Sucralose for use in 15 types of foods and beverages in 1998 and approved it for general purpose in 1999.
- WHY IS SUCRALOSE CONTROVERSIAL?
When Splenda was originally introduced and marketed, it was advertised as, “Made from sugar. So tastes like sugar.” This tagline implied that sucralose was a natural sweetener; however, sucralose is not a natural product. Even though it is made from sugar, the sugar molecule is chemically modified to make sucralose, classifying it as an artificial sweetener.
The implication that it was a natural product created confusion for many consumers. This led to a lawsuit against Splenda by a competitor, and the slogan was changed to “Just What’s Good — it’s made from sugar. It tastes like sugar. But it’s not sugar.”
Since that time, sucralose, like its predecessors, has become the focus of controversial claims that it is unnatural and consequently unsafe. However, UC Davis professor Carolyn de la Peña noted in her history of artificial sweeteners, that these rumors have been have been fueled in part by the sweetener industry despite the established safety of those products:
“The modern sweetener industry has thrived by regularly providing consumers with a new option and actively vilifying those that came before it as unnatural and very likely unsafe. The result of this approach, for consumers, is confusion. Obscured are the commonalities between these sweeteners that are, in the end, far more significant than the differences. All are chemicals. None has a closer connection to nature, in either origins or processing, than any other. And all are safe, if used in moderation. Were that not the case, certainly industry-driven scientists would have discovered their competitors’ weaknesses and publicized them to consumers well before Internet activists and independent filmmakers.”
- IS SUCRALOSE SAFE?
Since its introduction, Sucralose has been extensively tested in short-term and long-term studies in both animals and humans. In fact, more than a hundred studies were reviewed during the FDA approval process for Sucralose. The results of all these studies have demonstrated that there is no significant risk to humans associated with the consumption of Sucralose in normal amounts.
A human tolerance study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology in 2000 found “no indication that adverse effects on human health would occur from frequent or long-term exposure to Sucralose at the maximum anticipated levels of intake.”
There are significant studies, including human studies, that prove Sucralose is safe and nontoxic, when used in moderation. Two Sucralose tolerance studies were conducted in healthy human adult volunteers. The first study was an ascending dose study conducted in eight subjects, in which Sucralose was administered at doses of 1, 2. 5, 5 and 10mg/kg at 48-hour intervals and followed by daily dosing at 2mg/kg for 3 days and 5mg/kg for 4 days. In the second study, subjects consumed either sucralose (n=77) or fructose (50g/day) (n=31) twice daily in single blind fashion. Sucralose dosage levels were 125mg/day for weeks 1-3, 250mg/day during weeks 4-7, and 500mg/day during weeks 8-12. No adverse experiences or clinically detectable effects were attributable to Sucralose in either study. Similarly, haematology, serum biochemistry, urinalysis and EKG tracings were unaffected by Sucralose administration. In the 13-week study, serial slit lamp ophthalmologic examination performed in a random subset of the study groups revealed no changes. Fasting and 2-hour post-dosing blood Sucralose concentrations obtained daily during week 12 of the study revealed no rising trend for blood Sucralose. Sucralose was well tolerated by human volunteers in single doses up to 10mg/kg/day and repeated doses increasing to 5mg/kg/day for 13 weeks. Based on these studies and the extensive animal safety database, there is no indication that adverse effects on human health would occur from frequent or long-term exposure to Sucralose at the maximum anticipated levels of intake.
Concerns about the safety of Sucralose are mainly due to the fact that it belongs to a class of chemicals known as organic chlorides, and some types are toxic or carcinogenic. The Sucralose molecule has three atoms of chlorine, which intensifies the sweetness of sugar while removing the calories. The chlorine in Sucralose does not separate in the body, and Sucralose does not break down or accumulate in the body.
In other words, the way that Sucralose is digested doesn’t allow for the proper conditions for it to break down and release its chloride. Sucralose is considered safe for all sectors of the population, including people with chronic health problems such as diabetes. A three-month study of 128 people with diabetes, in which Sucralose was administered at a dose approximately three times the maximum estimated daily intake, showed no adverse effects on any measure of blood glucose control.
The book, Artificial Sweeteners examines Sucralose and the extensive safety testing conducted, including those involving long-term exposure and doses far in excess of recommended amounts:
“Sucralose is one of the most tested food ingredients available today. It has been found safe for its intended use by health and food safety experts from around the world. Sucralose is permitted for use in more than 100 countries. It is used in thousands of food and beverage products worldwide and is safe for use over an entire lifetime.
More than 100 scientific studies conducted to describe the safety of Sucralose represent a methodical, intentional, and broad-range research program, as required by prominent health and food safety authorities. Research studies conducted in describing the safety of a new food ingredient must be rigorous and comprehensive.
The studies conducted to assess the safety of Sucralose investigated possible effects with short-term exposures and long-term, essentially lifetime, exposures, from conception to advanced adulthood. Many of the Sucralose research studies utilized very high daily doses of Sucralose, doses far greater that what could be expected to be consumed, to understand margins for safe use. Use of such high daily doses was particularly employed in the core Sucralose research studies, in accordance with international standards for studies designed to determine potential risk.”
Another study concluded, “The collective evidence supports the conclusion that the ingredient, Sucralose, is safe for use in food and that the Sucralose-mixture product, Granulated SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, is also safe for its intended use.”
Even the American Pregnancy Association reports that calorie-free Splenda is made from sugar but doesn’t affect blood sugar levels, and is safe for pregnant and nursing women.
- DOES SUCRALOSE CONTRIBUTE TO WEIGHT GAIN?
Weight-loss products often contain no-calorie sweeteners, like Sucralose, to attract consumers who either want to lose or maintain weight. Although the majority of research shows that there is no scientific evidence that Sucralose contributes to weight gain, there are studies that indicate Sucralose can be positive or negative to your waistline.
Observational studies find no connection between artificial sweetener consumption and body weight or fat mass, but some of them report a small increase in body mass index.
A review of randomized controlled trials, the gold standard of research, reports that artificial sweeteners reduce body weight by around 1.7 lbs (0.8 kg) on average.
One study concluded, “The clinical and epidemiologic data available at present are insufficient to make definitive conclusions regarding the benefits of non-nutritive sweeteners in displacing caloric sweeteners as related to energy balance, maintenance or decrease in body weight, and other cardiometabolic risk factors. Although the FDA and most published (especially industry-funded) studies endorse the safety of these additives, there is lack of conclusive evidence-based research to discourage or to encourage their use on a regular basis. While moderate use of non-nutritive sweeteners may be useful as a dietary aid for someone with diabetes or on a weight loss regimen, for optimal health it is recommended that only minimal amounts of both sugar and non-nutritive sweeteners be consumed.”
In another study aimed to investigate the results of Splenda in rats, the Expert Panel found that, “The study was deficient in several critical areas and that its results cannot be interpreted as evidence that either Splenda, or Sucralose, produced adverse effects in male rats, including effects on gastrointestinal microflora, body weight, CYP450 and P-gp activity, and nutrient and drug absorption. The study conclusions are not consistent with published literature and not supported by the data presented.”
In yet another study comparing the effects of sweeteners on the blood glucose level and weight in rats, the data collected over the course of the experiment, “is inconclusive, showing neither SlimStevia nor Splenda to have a significant effect on the weight gain and blood glucose levels of rats.”
Another study conducted to demonstrate the association between artificial sweetener use and weight gain concluded, “Presently, there is no strong clinical evidence for causality regarding artificial sweetener use and metabolic health effects.”
- DOES SUCRALOSE CAUSE CANCER?
Some of the most trustworthy health agencies, such as the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, agree there is no scientific evidence that Sucralose causes cancer or any other health issues. That being said, there is always a new study that challenges what research has proven for years.
The latest challenge comes from Dr. Morando Soffritti at the Ramazzini Institute in Italy. His study questioned the safety of Sucralose, suggesting that it could cause cancer. On further review, it has been determined that this study was poorly conducted. First of all, the acceptable daily intake (ADI) level of Sucralose is set at 5mg/kg of body weight in the US and 15mg/kg of body weight in Europe. It would be logical, as a researcher planning to draw conclusions regarding safety in the human diet to therefore use these levels. However, Soffritti used test quantities of 500, 2,000, 8,000, and 16,000 ppm. That translates to 500mg/kg, 2,000mg/kg, 8,000mg/kg, and 16,000mg/kg. That’s anywhere from 100 to 3200 times more than the acceptable daily intake level (ADI) in the US.
In Forbes magazine, Trevor Butterworth reported on this unsupported Sucralose scare from these researchers:
The problem hanging over the Splenda finding is that which hangs over the Ramazzini Institute in general: Quality control. No matter what substance the Institute tests for cancer, the results always seem to be positive, whereas other laboratories testing the same substances repeatedly fail to come up with the same findings. […] All of this has made the Ramazzini Institute something of a joke in European and American science. But, of course, there’s nothing to laugh about when you use a charity conference on childhood cancer to promote an international cancer panic.
The FDA has done its homework on Sucralose and says: “In determining the safety of Sucralose, FDA reviewed data from more than 110 studies in humans and animals. Many of the studies were designed to identify possible toxic effects including carcinogenic, reproductive and neurological effects. No such effects were found, and FDA’s approval is based on the finding that Sucralose is safe for human consumption.”
- WHY DO COMPANIES USE SUCRALOSE IN THEIR PRODUCTS?
Many companies are seeing the sweet side to manufacturing and marketing their products with Sucralose, and reasonably so. Its no-calorie, high delivery on taste and consumer satisfaction has made Sucralose the number-one selling sweetener in America. When you top off the sweet taste with the fact that Sucralose is backed by science and decades of research and it’s easy to see why consumers and companies alike, consider Sucralose a great artificial sweetener to reduce calories without sacrificing taste.
- WHY USE SUCRALOSE INSTEAD OF STEVIA OR MONK FRUIT?
Both Sucralose and stevia are no-calorie sweeteners, they don’t increase blood sugar levels, and they are considered safe when consumed in moderation. Stevia comes from a plant native to South America and is used in soft drinks and juices. Stevia is more than 100 times sweeter than table sugar, but like many other sugar substitutes, it can also have a bitter aftertaste.
Monk fruit juice is also a no-calorie sweetener that is about 150-200 times sweeter than sugar. Monk fruit sweeteners are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in the U.S. and the FDA has determined that monk fruit sweeteners are safe for us in foods and beverages.
When it comes to taste, however, companies know that consumers will always vote with their dollars, and Sucralose is the best tasting alternative to sugar.
Sucralose is one of the most commonly consumed low-calorie sweeteners available on the market today. Over the past 20 years, researchers have conducted more than 100 scientific studies on Sucralose safety. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) does note that Sucralose may be safer than other artificial sweeteners. However, Columbia University reports that consuming artificial sweeteners can lead to laxative effects, including bloating, gas and diarrhea, in some people. For this reason, it’s important to monitor your consumption of artificial sweeteners like Sucralose.
The European Union Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Food Standards Australia/New Zealand (FSANZ), the Health Protection Branch of Health and Welfare Canada, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare have all declared Sucralose safe.
If these global authorities consider Sucralose safe, then it’s safe to say that you can, too. The choice is obviously yours. If you enjoy the taste of Sucralose and are looking for a safe dose of sweet without the added calories, sugar rush, and potential health burden of traditional sugar, then Sucralose is a great choice for health-conscious individuals.
- WORKS CITED
de la Peña. Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda. Greensboro: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-8078-3409-1 (pp. 219-224).