Splenda Dangers: Reconsidering the Zero Calorie Sweetener Sucralose

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Many people use low calorie products for weight loss reasons without looking at both sides of the coin. The main purpose of this post is to raise your awareness about Splenda dangers and the top 6 concerns which are worth considering when choosing products containing the zero calorie sweetener sucralose. By the end of the article, you’ll either solidify your level of comfort regarding sucralose consumption (Splenda) or you may decide to put a hold on this controversial sweetener for yourself and your family.

ABOUT SPLENDA & SUCRALOSE

Before we dig deeper into the Splenda dangers and the 6 potential threats associated with sucralose, let’s get familiar with the following info first: 

  • Splenda is the brand name under which sucralose is sold as a general purpose sweetener.
  • Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Splenda (sucralose) is a chlorinated artificial sweetener (3 hydrogen-oxygen groups on table sugar/sucrose are replaced with three chlorine atoms.).
  • Sucralose is added to many low calorie (calorie free) foods & beverages.
  • In the EU, sucralose is labelled under the food additive code E955.
  • There is a lot of controversy regarding the safety of Splenda and the regulatory status of sucralose.
  • Low (no) calorie sweeteners like sucralose are also called nonnutritive sweeteners.
Splenda dangers

ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS CONTRIBUTE TO WEIGHT GAIN

Splenda Dangers

The theory that artificial sweeteners link to weight gain is as much controversial as the artificial sweetener aspartame or the dietary recommendations regarding margarine. If you consume Splenda and low calorie products because you believe it will keep your weight in check, taking the time to consider what some experts and researchers think of this strategy may be worth your while (FYI: research reffers to zero calorie sweeteners as nonnutritive sweeteners in the following lines). 

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose may have zero calories, but your body isn't fooled. When hit with a "sweet" taste, your body expects calories to follow, and when this doesn't happen, it causes biochemical distortions that can result in weight gain, metabolic dysfunction and other health problems.

Observational data suggest that routine intake of nonnutritive sweeteners (zero calorie sweeteners) may be associated with increased BMI and cardiometabolic risk. Further research is needed to fully characterize the long-term risks and benefits of nonnutritive sweeteners.

NNS consumption is associated with higher body weight and metabolic disease in observational studies. Additional long‐term, well‐controlled intervention studies in humans are needed to determine the effects of NNSs on weight, adiposity, and chronic disease under free‐living conditions.

Splenda dangers

SPLENDA IS NOT SUITABLE FOR COOKING

Splenda Dangers

If you go to Splenda.com, you will discover many recipes including cooking & baking tips, however, research points towards the instability of sucralose when heated.  

The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health published a detailed review of the top 5 concerns regarding sucralose, and thermal decomposition of this artificial sweetener was discussed in the 5th point. The review refers to some important findings from past research:

  • Data showed that the stability of sucralose decreased as the temperature and pH increased; at 180°C sucralose completely degraded at all pH levels with the release of chloride ions.
  • Thermal decomposition of sucralose commences at 119°C with liberation of HCl and water.
  • Cooking with sucralose at high temperatures was reported to generate chloropropanols, a potentially toxic class of compounds.

Here are some concerning points about chloropropanols:

  • Chloropropanols were generated when sucralose was heated in the presence of glycerol. Cloropropanols comprise a group of contaminants that include known genotoxic, carcinogenic, and tumorigenic compounds.
  • Caution should be exercised in the use of sucralose as a sweetening agent during baking of food products containing glycerol and or lipids due to the potential formation of toxic chloropropanols.
  • Other chlorinated compounds including dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans, dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls, and polychlorinated naphthalenes were also generated by heating sucralose in the presence of foods.

The WHO (World Health Organization) lists key facts regarding dioxins including their effects on human health. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Dioxins are environmental pollutants.
  • Dioxins are of concern because of their highly toxic potential. 
  • Once dioxins enter the body, they last a long time because of their chemical stability and their ability to be absorbed by fat tissue, where they are then stored in the body. 
  • Dioxins are unwanted by-products of a wide range of manufacturing processes including smelting, chlorine bleaching of paper pulp and the manufacturing of some herbicides and pesticides. 
Splenda dangers

SUCRALOSE HAS TOXIC EFFECTS ON THE LIVER

Splenda Dangers

A recent study published in the scientific and medical journal Morhpologie calls for more research regarding the effects of sucralose on humans, based on the followings findings:

  • The liver of sucralose treated rats showed definite changes indicating toxic effects on regular ingestion. 
  • It is suggestive that sucralose should be taken with caution to avoid hepatic damage.
  • Effects of ingestion of sucralose on human subjects should be investigated further.

Researchers pointed towards the link between sucralose and liver inflammation in a previous study published by the journal Frontiers in Physiology titled “Gut Microbiome Response to Sucralose and Its Potential Role in Inducing Liver Inflammation in Mice.” The authors concluded:  

  • Our results show that sucralose altered the gut microbiome and associated metabolic profiles, which may contribute to inflammatory response in the mouse liver.
  • The alterations induced by sucralose consumption could affect the development of inflammation and further influence other physiological functions in the body. 

It’s worth noting that a number of websites focusing on liver’s health caution people with liver disease, pregnant women and children not to use artificial sweeteners like Splenda (sucralose) or Aspartame.

***Nursing mothers may also want to reconsider consuming artificial sweeteners (sucralose, saccharin, acesulfame-potassium) while breastfeeding to prevent their babies from dietary exposure of nonnutritive sweeteners via breast milk.

SUCRALOSE DAMAGES THE GUT

Splenda Dangers

This point of Splenda dangers links to the latest research discussing the many key roles of gut microbiome (gut flora) in human health (digestion, metabolism, immune function, mental health and more).

A recent article published by the BMJ titled “Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health” highlights the following suggestion:

Microbiota should be considered a key aspect in nutrition; the medical community should adapt their education and public health messages.

With regards to Splenda and its effect on gut flora, a recent study (Splenda was fed to rats), revealed the following:

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.

The finding about sucralose & liver inflammation (mentioned in point #3) published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, also points towards the link between altered gut flora and sucralose. They further note:

  • Alterations in bacterial genera showed that sucralose affects the gut microbiota and its developmental dynamics. 
  • We demonstrate here that sucralose can affect the gut microbiome, its metabolic functions and the host even though it passes through the GI tract unchanged.***

*** It’s worth noting that at the time of the study, researcher assumed that sucralose passes through the gastrointestinal tract (GI). With that being said, this theory of sucralose not being metabolized in the GI has been challenged since as the following point will discuss.

THE QUESTIONABLE SAFETY STATUS OF SUCRALOSE

Splenda Dangers

Regardless the fact that sucralose is an approved artificial sweetener in many countries, the regulatory approval of sucralose was based on the key factor that the body excretes this nonnutritive sweetener unchanged.

A recent study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health reveals that sucralose is not biology inert. The study had two main aims: 

(1) to determine if the organochlorine artificial sweetener sucralose is metabolized in rat intestine with repeated dosing and (2) examine whether sucralose might bioaccumulate in rat adipose tissue.”

Here is what the authors concluded: 

Data demonstrated that sucralose is metabolized in rats to compounds that are less polar and thus more lipophilic than the parent compound. Further, sucralose was retained in adipose tissue two weeks after cessation of intake.

These findings call for the regulatory review of sucralose: 

These new observations of metabolism of sucralose in the GIT and accumulation of the compound in adipose tissue were not part of the original regulatory decision process for this organochlorine artificial sweetener. Data indicate that it may now be time to revisit the regulatory status of sucralose.

*** A previous study (mentioned in point #2) was already suggesting that sucralose is metabolized in the GIT:

Although early studies asserted that sucralose passes through the GIT unchanged, subsequent analysis suggested that some of the ingested sweetener is metabolized in the GIT, as indicated by multiple peaks found in thin-layer radiochromatographic profiles of methanolic fecal extracts after oral sucralose administration.

The Ultimate Advice To Consumers

Splenda dangers have been under the radar of the CSPI, a non profit consumer advocacy organisation. The Center for Science in the Public Interest downgraded the safety rating of sucralose twice, first time in 2016 and again in 2017. Here is their ultimate recommendation: 

Our bottom-line advice to consumers, especially children and pregnant women, is that they continue to avoid sucralose and aspartame, as well as the artificial sweeteners acesulfame-potassium and saccharin.  The potential cancer risk to humans is small, but there is no reason to accept any cancer risk from these products.  

That said, the risks that overconsumption of sugar and especially sugar-sweetened beverages pose, of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, far outweigh the cancer risk posed by artificial sweeteners.   

SPLENDA MAY CONTAIN GMO INGREDIENTS

The final point concerning Splenda dangers relates to GMO ingredients (genetically modified organisms). GMO foods are another controversial topic and many questions regarding the long term effects on human health and the environment remain unanswered. Once you start researching this topic you will find many contradicting opinions about GMO foods including glyphosate which is the active ingredient in Roundup (herbicide) produced by Monsanto. 

If you are someone who purposely avoids GMO foods and you consume Splenda, you may want to be aware of the following: 

We can’t guarantee that the corn used to make the maltodextrin (granulated and packets) and dextrose (packets) in our SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener Products does not come from genetically modified sources.

Maltodextrin & Dextrose

Maltodextrin (thickener) and dextrose (simple sugar) are corn derived food additives (refined). Corn is one of the top GMO crops (inc. canola, cotton, soybeans, sugar beets and more).

RECOMMENDATIONS

Weight Loss & Zero Calorie Sweeteners

Rather than wait for the time when human studies and research come to a consistent verdict regarding the link between zero calorie sweeteners and weight increase, perhaps it’s safer to review your weight loss strategy altogether.

You can work with a nutrition professional who will be able to design a game plan which considers other factors that may hamper your inability to lose & maintain healthy body weight (poor diet, thyroid function, inflammation, insulin & leptin resistance, nutrient imbalances, gut health, medications, environmental factors, stress, insufficient sleep).

Looking at the bigger picture will help you discover and address the root cause of your problem which will deliver long term results. Afteral, if losing weight was as simple as switching to low calorie sweeteners and products, you wouldn’t still be looking for an answer. 🙂

Using Splenda for Cooking & Baking

Many baking recipes call for a minimum of 180°C (350F). This means that you turn sucralose into a toxic substance each time you bake with it. If this idea (research finding mentioned in point #2) makes you uncomfortable, try replacing Splenda with coconut sugar, which is low in glycemic index = it does not cause blood sugar & insulin spikes which lead to sugar cravings, weight gain and many other problems. 

Remember though that moderation is key when it comes to sugar consumption, even if it’s natural sugar, which is always better than refined, artificial options. 

Looking at your overall diet, especially added sugars which hide in many prepackaged foods & beverages will go a long way. Are you ready to make the switch from processed foods to the real stuff

Grocery Shopping Questions

When making dietary decisions for yourself and your family, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. Asking yourself the following questions before you buy any food or beverage products will help you make more mindful choices:

  1. Will this food/beverage help my body to be more nourished and balanced?
  2. Is it natural or processed?
  3. Are there any side effects linked to the ingredients and production processes?
  4. How safe is it for my current condition (pregnancy, digestive issues, drug interactions and specific medical conditions)?

*** If you wish to minimize your risk associated with the various Splenda dangers and avoid sucralose in prepackaged foods & beverages, make sure to read the ingredient label. Look for the name “sucralose” or “E955” if you live in the EU. 

Sucralose & Medical Drugs

The study mentioned in point #4 also discovered that Splenda "enhanced expression levels of P-gp, CYP3A4, and CYP2D1, which are known to limit the bioavailability of orally administered drugs." CLICK on the title to learn more.

Wondering how to switch to healthy eating? Here, you'll find tips on how to optimize your day-to-day diet, break poor eating habits and more!