Artificial Sweeteners (cont.)
Betty Kovacs, MS, RD
Betty Kovacs, MS, RD
Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
Sucralose: What are the pros?
Sucralose is the newest nonnutritive sweetener on the market. It is most well known for its claim to be made from sugar. It is used alone or found in Splenda and is 600 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). When used alone, it provides essentially no calories and is not fully absorbed. In 1998, it was approved for limited use, and in 1999, it was given approval for use as a general-purpose sweetener. It is currently found in over 4,500 products, including foods that are cooked or baked. This artificial sweetener that can be used for cooking, so it has rapidly become one of the most popular and highly consumed artificial sweeteners.
The FDA reviewed studies in human beings and animals and determined that sucralose did not pose carcinogenic, reproductive, or neurological risk to human beings. The acceptable daily intake (ADI) for sucralose was set at 5 mg/kg of body weight/day. To determine your ADI, divide your weight in pound by 2.2 and then multiply it by 50. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs., your weight in kg would be 91 (200 divided by 2.2) and your ADI for sucralose would be 455 mg (91 x 5).
Sucralose: What are the cons?
The most misunderstood fact about sucralose is that it is nothing like sugar even though the marketing implies that it is. Sucralose was actually discovered while trying to create a new insecticide. It may have started out as sugar, but the final product is anything but sugar. According to the book Sweet Deception, sucralose is made when sugar is treated with trityl chloride, acetic anhydride, hydrogen chlorine, thionyl chloride, and methanol in the presence of dimethylformamide, 4-methylmorpholine, toluene, methyl isobutyl ketone, acetic acid, benzyltriethlyammonium chloride, and sodium methoxide, making it unlike anything found in nature. If you read the fine print on the Splenda web site, it states that "although sucralose has a structure like sugar and a sugar-like taste, it is not natural."
The name sucralose is misleading. The suffix -ose is used to name sugars, not additives. Sucralose sounds very close to sucrose, table sugar, and can be confusing for consumers. A more accurate name for the structure of sucralose was purposed. The name would have been trichlorogalactosucrose, but the FDA did not believe that it was necessary to use this so sucralose was allowed.
The presence of chlorine is thought to be the most dangerous component of sucralose. Chlorine is considered a carcinogen and has been used in poisonous gas, disinfectants, pesticides, and plastics. The digestion and absorption of sucralose is not clear due to a lack of long-term studies on humans. The majority of studies were done on animals for short lengths of time. The alleged symptoms associated with sucralose are gastrointestinal problems (bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea), skin irritations (rash, hives, redness, itching, swelling), wheezing, cough, runny nose, chest pains, palpitations, anxiety, anger, moods swings, depression, and itchy eyes. The only way to be sure of the safety of sucralose is to have long-term studies on humans done.
Splenda is a product that contains the artificial sweetener sucralose, but that is not all that it contains. Sucralose does have calories, but because it is 600 times sweeter than sugar, very small amounts are needed to achieve the desired sweetness so you most likely won't consume enough to get any calories. The other two ingredients in Splenda are dextrose and maltodextrin, which are used to increase bulk and are carbohydrates that do have calories. One cup of Splenda contains 96 calories and 32 grams of carbohydrates, which is often unnoticed due to the label claiming that it's a no calorie sweetener. Because this is found in so many products and can be used in cooking, it can be possible to consume 1 cup or more each day. For people with diabetes, this is a significant amount of carbohydrates, and for people who are watching their weight, this can be a problem. Consuming an additional 100 calories a day can result in a weight gain of 10 lbs. per year!
A recent study found that Splenda affected the absorption of medications in rats. The rats were given sucralose at doses of 1.1-11 mg/kg. After 12-weeks, they found that the rats had half of the good bacteria in the gut. They also found that Splenda interferes with the absorption of prescription medications. Other research studies have come out to show that this is not what happens. The only way to know for sure is to perform long-term studies in humans. Unfortunately, this takes time. It can also be dangerous if this is actually happening. The limited number of studies and lack of long-term studies on sucralose means that we are going to have to learn things like this as we go.