Sucralose: Friend or Foe?
Obesity is the fastest growing epidemic sweeping across the globe. A large portion of the blame for the rising obesity rates falls at the feet of added sugars in the diet, in the form of soda, desserts, and other packaged goods. Excessive sugar consumption is well documented to adversely impact overall health and metabolism, and is a key contributor to the development of Type 2 Diabetes.
To combat the ever growing number of sugar-related diseases, food scientists have begun developing a class of compounds known as non-nutritive sweeteners, a.k.a. Zero calorie sugar substitutes.
One of the most popular and widely consumed artificial sweeteners is Sucralose (Splenda). It’s promoted as an alternative sweetening agent to sugar, but many out there avoid consuming sucralose for fear it may be a hazard to their health.
So, is sucralose a safe calorie-saving alternative to sugar, or is it some sinister synthetic demon preying on the uninformed dieter?
We answer all that and more ahead!
What is Sucralose?
Sucralose is a zero-calorie artificial sweetener, discovered by accident by a British University scientist in 1976 who misinterpreted instructions when testing out a variety of substances. The result of the lab mishap was a new sugar-substitute called Sucralose.
The molecular structure of sucralose is similar to that of sugar, but with the 3 hydrogen-oxygen groups replaced with chlorine atoms. Compared to sugar, sucralose is roughly 600 times sweeter than sugar, and doesn’t come with the bitter aftertaste like several other sugar alternatives, namely Stevia.
Given the amount of controversy surrounding sucralose from the holistic, all-natural crowd, you’d think that volumes of research had been written demonstrating the negative health effects of it. So, what does the research say?
Repeated Dose Intake
Two separate studies investigated high intakes of sucralose in human subjects including doses of 1, 2.5, 5, and 10mg/kg bodyweight per day for 13 weeks. At the conclusion of the trial, researchers documented haematology, serum biochemistry, urinalysis and EKG tracings and noted that each was unaffected by sucralose consumption, which led researchers to conclude:
”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.”
A common scare tactic people use when discussing artificial sweeteners is that they lead to weight gain. However, a comprehensive meta-analysis found no correlation between artificial sweetener consumption and body weight or body fat.
Moreover, the same meta-analysis also noted that consumption of artificial sweeteners reduced body weight by up to 1.7lbs on average!
Blood Sugar & Insulin
One of the benefits of sucralose and other artificial sweeteners is that they have little to no impact on blood sugar and insulin secretion in the body. What’s the research say?
One small study, involving 17 obese individuals, showed that sucralose consumption did increase blood sugar and insulin levels 14% and 20%, respectively. But, several other studies conducted on normal, healthy weight individuals have shown that sucralose does not impact blood sugar or insulin levels at all.[4,5]
Is Sucralose Safe?
Based on the available research, sucralose does indeed appear to be safe for human consumption. In healthy individuals used to consuming artificial sweeteners, there is adverse effects on blood sugar or insulin. However, if you’re obese, you may experience some mild increases in blood sugar levels.
The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of sucralose as prescribed by the FDA is 5 milligrams per kilogram bodyweight per day (mg/kg bw/d). If we’re talking real world measurables, that equates to about 23 packets of sucralose-based sweetener such as Splenda. Furthermore, studies have shown that you’d have to consume the equivalent of 1500 12-ounce diet sodas per day before your body would even experience any adverse effects.
With that in mind, sucralose is still too new to have any long-term health studies conducted on it, which means there may be some side effects still undiscovered. But, for the moment, sucralose is perfectly safe to consume per the FDA and the numerous research trials conducted on it.
Ultimately, the decision to consume sucralose and other artificial sweeteners is up to the individual. If you use it regularly great, and if you choose to avoid it for whatever reason, that’s fine too -- there’s plenty of other natural alternatives to sugar available. But,based on the available research, sucralose is safe to use and possesses no immediate risks to health.
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