Sucralose, known to consumers as Splenda™ is the newest of the sugar substitute sweeteners on the market. Since its US introduction in May of 1998 in Diet RC cola, it is now used in countless products as a non-caloric substitute that is 600 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar).
Splenda is distributed by McNeil Nutritionals, a division of Johnson & Johnson. They have been in the news recently as class action lawsuits have been filed against them from industries such as the Sugar Association and Merisant, the maker of the ever so familiar Nutrasweet. The suits center around Splenda’s misleading advertisements where they claim that it is made from natural sugar.
Some other interesting points concerning sucralose:
- It has been show to cause swelling of the liver and kidneys, and calcification of the kidneys.
- Despite the manufacturer’s mis-statements, sucralose does break down into small amounts of 1,6-dichlorofructose, a chemical that has not been adequately tested in humans.
- No long term studies: The manufacturer’s “100’s of studies” (some of which show hazards) were clearly inadequate and do not demonstrate safety in long-term use. There are known to be approximately 76 studies done using sucralose, compared to over 3000 with saccharin and almost 800 with aspartame (Nutrasweet).
- The manufacturer claims that the chlorine added to sucralose is similar to the chlorine atom in the salt (NaCl) molecule. This is not the case – salt is natural, sucralose is not. This is similar to the fluoride controversy between what naturally occurs in water and food and the “supplemental” type used in dental products. – A topic for another time.
- One small study of diabetic patients using the sweetener showed a statistically significant increase in glycosylated hemoglobin (HgbA1c), which is a marker of long-term blood glucose levels and is used to assess glycemic control in diabetic patients.
- Up to 40% shrinkage of the thymus gland – the “master gland” of your immune system – pretty important!
- Sucralose is not yet approved for use in most European countries, where it is still under review.
Sucralose, like all artificial sweeteners, does nothing to help your body beat the “sweet tooth” craving for sugars and carbohydrates and therefore benefit any insulin resistance problem. Actually, since it is 600 times sweeter than table sugar, it many times provokes the sugar addiction. This product, in the distinct yellow package, is potentially much more harmful than what one may think, and like the others out there – the blue “Nutrasweet” and the pink “saccharin” – it is not going to go away. You’ve probably seen the ads already for the new lime Diet Coke – a Splenda product.
I have always said that if it’s too hard to pronounce a food product, then it probably is not good for you. The chemical name of sucralose is 1,6-Dichloro-1,6-dideoxy-beta-D-fructofuranosyl-4-chloro-4-deoxy-alpha-D-galactopyranoside. Say that a few times. Or even once.
My suggestion is always to stay with the natural products. Cutting calories has never provided any long-term health benefits. White sugar is always the better choice over the artificial sweeteners, though not the best choice. Better yet – use honey as a natural sweetener. Honey is my favorite, and it is lower on the glycemic index. Local raw honey is also great for environmental allergies and provides some antioxidant nutrients. The no-calorie herbal sweetener Stevia is okay in small amounts.
Stevia is a herb that has been used as a sweetener in South America for hundreds of years and is 30 times sweeter than sugar. Today, China grows nearly 80% of the world’s Stevia leaf. Stevia can be found in almost any health food store.
Other sweeteners claiming to be natural sweeteners are the sugar alcohols. Commonly known as xylitol, erythritol (Truvia), maltitol, and sorbitol, these sugar alcohols do not require insulin or promote tooth decay. Thus, products can be labeled “sugar free”.
Proponents state that xylitol is good because it is natural – a natural extraction from birch trees. However, xylitol is widely distributed throughout nature in small amounts. Some of the best sources are fruits, berries, mushrooms lettuce, hardwoods, and corn cobs. One cup of raspberries contains less than one gram of xylitol and it is present with other naturally occurring plant and fruit sugars and nutrients. Using xylitol and the other sugar substitutes is completely out of context with nature and most often causes problems that users are unaware of. Your body cannot handle 10-20 grams of an extracted sugar alcohol in your “low carb” bar. If you are having daily, nagging problems, (especially digestive), and you’ve cut out the yellow, blue, and pink packs for the xylitol or maltitol, your intent was good, but misguided. Same goes for the new(er) product called Truvia which is erythritol. Yes it’s from grapes and pears and watermelon and even beer but not in the high “out of its natural source” found in a sweetener additive product. Cut out those products too and stick with the ever so popular Winnie the Pooh craze >> He’s got a major carbohydrate dependence problem, but at least he’s sticking with honey!
SPLENDA UPDATE – MARCH 2009
A new study from the Duke University Medical Center has found that ingestion of the artificial sweetener sucralose will kill off 50% of beneficial microflora in the gut, as well as altering the pH and affecting P-glycoprotein (P-gp) levels in the digestive tract. The rat study concluded that the P-gp effect could result in medications used in chemotherapy, AIDS treatment and treatments for heart conditions being shunted back into the intestines, rather than being absorbed by the body.
Sucralose, which is commonly known under the commercial name Splenda, has previously come under fire for causing gastrointestinal problems, migraines, seizures, dizziness, blurred vision, allergic reactions, blood sugar increases and weight gain. Says James Turner, the chairman of the national consumer education group Citizens for Health, “”The report makes it clear that the artificial sweetener Splenda and its key component sucralose pose a threat to the people who consume the product.” Other artificial sweeteners, particularly Nutrasweet, have received similar criticism for adverse effects.
Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats.
Abou-Donia MB, El-Masry EM, Abdel-Rahman AA, McLendon RE, Schiffman SS.
Department of Pharmacology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA. [email protected]
Splenda is comprised of the high-potency artificial sweetener sucralose (1.1%) and the fillers maltodextrin and glucose. Splenda was administered by oral gavage at 100, 300, 500, or 1000 mg/kg to male Sprague-Dawley rats for 12-wk, during which fecal samples were collected weekly for bacterial analysis and measurement of fecal pH. After 12-wk, half of the animals from each treatment group were sacrificed to determine the intestinal expression of the membrane efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and the cytochrome P-450 (CYP) metabolism system by Western blot. The remaining animals were allowed to recover for an additional 12-wk, and further assessments of fecal microflora, fecal pH, and expression of P-gp and CYP were determined. At the end of the 12-wk treatment period, the numbers of total anaerobes, bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, Bacteroides, clostridia, and total aerobic bacteria were significantly decreased; however, there was no significant treatment effect on enterobacteria. Splenda also increased fecal pH and enhanced the expression of P-gp by 2.43-fold, CYP3A4 by 2.51-fold, and CYP2D1 by 3.49-fold. Following the 12-wk recovery period, only the total anaerobes and bifidobacteria remained significantly depressed, whereas pH values, P-gp, and CYP3A4 and CYP2D1 remained elevated. These changes occurred at Splenda dosages that contained sucralose at 1.1-11 mg/kg (the US FDA Acceptable Daily Intake for sucralose is 5 mg/kg). Evidence indicates that a 12-wk administration of Splenda exerted numerous adverse effects, including (1) reduction in beneficial fecal microflora, (2) increased fecal pH, and (3) enhanced expression levels of P-gp, CYP3A4, and CYP2D1, which are known to limit the bioavailability of orally administered drugs.