The Artificial Sweetener - Splenda*
Sucralose is the low-calorie sweetener made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar. It is about 600 times sweeter than sugar (sucrose, table sugar), twice as sweet as saccharin and four times as sweet as aspartame. It is an artificial sweetener. It is also known under the additive code (E)955.
Sucralose is sold under the trade name Splenda. It has also been marketed as Altern.
Unlike aspartame (see my July 2007 newsletter Aspartame – Safe or Toxic?), it is stable when heated and over a broad range of pH conditions and can therefore be used in baking or in products that require a longer shelf-life. It has a clean, sweet taste without an after-taste.
The History of Sucralose
Sucralose was discovered in 1976 when a compound, a chlorinated sugar, was accidentally tasted and was found to be exceptionally sweet.
Because sucralose belongs to the class of chemicals called organochlorides, a strict burden of proof of safety is required.
The sucralose molecule is an organochloride or chlorocarbon. Some organochlorides are known to cause adverse health effects in extremely small concentrations.
Sugar (sucrose) is a disaccharide that contains two single sugars bound together: glucose and fructose.
Sucralose is a synthetic chemical. In the five-step patented process, three chlorine molecules are added to a sucrose or sugar molecule. This process alters the chemical composition of the sugar so much that it is converted to a fructo-galactose molecule. This type of sugar molecule does not occur in nature. The molecular formula is C12H19Cl3O8.
Sucralose was approved for use in Canada in 1991, in Australia in 1993, in New Zealand in 1996, in USA in 1998 and in the European Union in 2004. As at 2006, it has been approved for use in over 60 countries.
Sucralose, mixed with maltodextrin and dextrose (both from corn) as a filler, is sold internationally by McNeil Nutritionals under the Splenda brand name. Sucralose is manufactured by Tate & Lyle.
Most products that contain sucralose add fillers (additional sweeteners) to bring the product to the approximate volume and texture of an equivalent amount of sugar.
In the USA, it is marketed as a “no calorie sweetener”. Splenda actually contains slightly more calories than the same mass of sugar – 390kcal/100gm. When sucralose is added directly to commercial products, the filler is omitted and no significant calories are added.
The calories in Splenda come from the fillers maltodextrin and dextrose. These are carbohydrates and have four calories per gram.
What are the Claimed Benefits of Sucralose?
Sucralose is not metabolised. The molecule passes through the body unchanged. This is the claim of McNeil. But is it so? See below.
The sucralose website sucralose.com is published and maintained by Tate & Lyle. The following quotes are from that site:
“Made from sugar and it tastes like sugar”.
“Taste is the most important thing for your customers. SPLENDA® Sucralose is made from sugar and tastes like sugar and gives your products the sweetness customers crave”. (This section of the website was intended “for trade visitors only”.)
The following quotes are taken from the website eatright.org (search criteria sucralose, then ‘Facts About Sucralose’):
- “Because it [sucralose] has no calories, a wider selection of food choices is available for individuals who wish to limit their calorie intake and for people with diabetes.
- Sucralose does not promote tooth decay.
- It is compatible with commonly used food ingredients including flavours, seasonings and preservatives.
- Sucralose is very heat stable. It can be used in cooking and baking, as well as in food processing that requires high temperatures such as canning”.
What are the Safety Claims of Sucralose?
The following are direct quotes from the website ific.org. (Search criteria sucralose, then ‘Everything You Need To Know About Sucralose’.)
“Sucralose has an excellent safety profile. More than 100 scientific studies conducted over a 20-year period demonstrate that sucralose is safe for use as a sweetening ingredient. The data from the studies were independently evaluated by international experts in a variety of scientific disciplines, including toxicology, oncology, teratology, neurology, hematology, pediatrics and nutrition. Importantly, comprehensive toxicological studies, designed to meet the highest scientific standards, have clearly demonstrated that sucralose is not carcinogenic.”
“Sucralose makes a wide variety of calorie-reduced products possible, including soft drinks, ice cream, diary products and baked goods. One of the unique attributes of sucralose is that it can be used almost anywhere sugar is used. It does not lose its sugar-like sweetness even in applications that require heat or that are subjected to long shelf-storage. Thus, products made with sucralose maintain their sweetness after cooking, baking and throughout their shelf-life”.
“Sucralose can be used by everyone, including pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers”.
“Sucralose may be safely used by everyone, including children”.
This Sounds Good. Is it Too Good To Be True?
The bulk of sucralose ingested does not leave the gastrointestinal tract and is directly excreted in the faeces. However some 20% (on average) is absorbed, and the majority of this is removed from the blood stream by the kidneys and excreted in the urine. The published figures for absorption range from 11% to 27%.
Whole Foods Market, a US based retailer of natural and organic foods, “has a policy of not carrying products containing sucralose”. The retailer’s statement regarding this decision made allegations revolving around five essential points:
- “Sucralose is an artificial substance, some of which is absorbed by the body
- Pre-approval [by Food and Drug Administration USA] tests [in animals] indicated a potential for toxicity
- Sucralose is a chlorinated compound (a chlorocarbon)
- Independent, controlled human studies had not been performed
- Long-term human studies with sucralose had not been performed”.
(Whole Foods Market’s policy statement, [..] added for clarity)
The US Sugar Association, in their website ‘The Truth About Splenda’, have also put forward their criticism of sucralose. Their allegations revolve around three essential points:
- “Sucralose is a chlorocarbon
- Up to 27% of sucralose that is ingested is absorbed into the body by the digestive system
- Long-term human studies with sucralose have not been performed.”
The book ‘The Chemical Maze – Your Guide to Food Additives and Cosmetic Ingredients’ by Bill Statham, published by possibility.com, lists the following:
|Names:||Sucralose, Splenda (Artificially made from sugar and chlorine)|
|Potential Health Effects:||May lead to chronic neurological and immunological disorders; caused enlarged kidneys and liver in animals|
|Food uses:||Artificial sweeteners, diet drinks, baked goods, fruit spreads, desserts|
McNeil Nutritionals claim that Splenda has been extensively tested for safety as a food additive, more than most of the other food additives have been tested. They claim that over 100 studies have been conducted on Splenda. However they do not say that most of these studies have been on animals. The inference is that they have been human studies.
According to Dr Joseph Mercola (see mercola.com, sucralose_dangers), “As at 2006, only six human trails have been published on Splenda (sucralose). Of these six trials, only two of the trials were completed and published before the FDA approved sucralose for human consumption. The two published trials had a grand total of 36 human subjects.”
Of these 36, only 23 were actually given sucralose for testing. The largest trial at this time had lasted only four days and looked at sucralose in relation to tooth decay, not human tolerance.
FDA approved the use of sucralose in 15 food and beverages categories – the broadest initial approval ever given to a food additive, in 1998. In 1999 the FDA extended approval by permitting sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener in all foods, beverages, dietary supplements and medical foods.
“There have been no long-term human toxicity studies published until after the FDA approved sucralose for human consumption. Following FDA approval a human toxicity trial was conducted, but lasted only three months, hardly the length of time most Splenda users plan to consume sucralose. No studies have ever been done on children or pregnant women”. (Mercola)
Remember, a significant percent of sucralose is absorbed – up to 27%.
“Considering that Splenda bears more chemical similarity to DDT than it does to sugar, are you willing to bet your health on this data?” (Mercola). The Mercola website has a section “Splenda Horror Stories”.
Research has shown that sucralose can cause many problems in animals.
Some of these adverse effects in the animal studies have been set out by Dr Mercola (mercola.com/2003/aug/23/splenda.htm). He ends by saying “McNeil concluded that all these findings could be explained by reasons other than sucralose toxicity and were insignificant. This seems to be the pattern of all McNeil’s study conclusions. I [Mercola] find it suspect that for every single adverse finding in the animal studies, McNeil always has some rationale that renders it “insignificant”. Their down-playing every harmful finding makes it seem as if they are more interested in making sucralose appear safe than making sure that people are not harmed.”
There have been a number of claims filed against McNeil Nutritionals, in the USA and France. Brief details of these can be found in wikipedia.org/wiki/Sucralose, Marketing Controversy.
If you feel that Splenda affects you adversely, perform the elimination/challenge test. For details of this, refer to Chapter 15 ‘Suspect, Exclude, Reintroduce’ of my book ‘How To Stop Feeling So Awful’ (see homepage). If the re-introduction of sucralose, after total exclusion for a minimum of 10 days, results in symptoms, then you are reacting to it. It is not good for you.
If you do not notice any changes on re-introduction, it means that you tolerate sucralose, at least in the short-term. But, long-term? Remember:
- There have only been six human studies (as at 2006)
- The longest trial lasted three months
- Up to 27% of Splenda is absorbed into the body from the gastrointestinal tract before being finally excreted via the kidneys.
The author of this newsletter was recently encouraged to promote a mineral and trace element supplement for healthful living. It contained sucralose. My simple answer was “I will not recommend any product containing sucralose”.
You are responsible for your health.
*Copyright 2009: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the Huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
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