Thursday, March 3, 2011

All the Stuff I Never Knew About Splenda (and Sucralose)

When I wrote that post about Splenda last week, I realized a couple things.

I have never heard of any major bad studies showing ill effects of Splenda (hereafter to be known as sucralose). I know that sucralose is made from sugar, But I don't know what else it is. Caramel is also made from sugar, but there are a few more ingredients, so that isn't enough for me. I didn't know what the daily expected intake should be. I don't eat sucralose. I don't care for the flavor. And as you know, I have issues with no calorie sweeteners because of how they trick the body into believing that calories will be digested, yet provide no calories. But I know alot of people who do eat sucralose. And for many people, the knowledge that sucralose is made from sugar is enough for them. So this post is for all those that eat sucralose. This post is also for all those people for whom the questions surrounding sucralose are scratching at the back of their heads.

Facts About Sucralose as I have found on the Internet

1) Sucralose is an artifical sweetener. It has no calories because your body doesn't break it down. You poop it out. Well, that's the official version. But according to Wikipedia, in the body of the article, you do absorb or metabolize somewhere between 11 and 30% of all sucralose ingested.

2) Each 1 gram yellow packet of sucralose contains 3.31 calories. I am not saying that this is some kind of heresy. It is only 3.31 calories. But you ought to know, right? One Splenda packet has the sweetness level of 2 teaspoons of sugar. Two teaspoons of sugar contains 30 calories.

3) The FDA acceptable daily intake level of sucralose is set at 5 mg per day per kg. For the average 150 pound person, this means just over 3 tenths of a gram. I found this confusing, because several sites said that one sole Splenda packet contained 1 gram. Yet Wikipedia referred to packets as being just over one hundredth of a gram-or one mg. Then I realized my mistake. Splenda is NOT sucralose. One packet of Splenda contains 95% dextrose and/ or maltodextrin (hyper processed corn sugars), and only the remaining 5% (or .05 grams, or 5 mg) is actual sucralose. Once I figured this out, I realized pretty easily, that a 150 pound person should consume no more than 68 packets of Splenda according to the FDA. And easily enough, that is exactly one packet for every kilogram you weigh. To get your weight in kg, just divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. And furthermore for all you math freaks out there, each packet is a quarter of a teaspoon, so at 150 pounds you can eat just one quarter cup (plus one extra tablespoon) each day of traditional Splenda. I don't know about their Granular product. Not sure if the makeup of that is different than what's in the packets.

4) Pure Sucralose is about 300-1000 times sweeter than sugar to the human tounge.

5) According to Wikipedia, sucralose "is manufactured by the selective chlorination of sucrose (table sugar), which substitutes three of the hydroxyl groups with chloride. The selective chlorination is achieved by selective protection of the primary alcohol groups followed by acetylation and then deprotection of the primary alcohol groups. Following an induced acetyl migration on one of the hydroxyl groups, the partially acetylated sugar is then chlorinated with a chlorinating agent such as phosphorus oxychloride, followed by removal of the acetyl groups to give sucralose" Did ya' catch that? So yeah, I guess it's true, sucralose is made from sugar. But it isn't like bread is made from grains. It is a little more complicated than that. But hey, now you know.

6) The Sugar Association (Washington DC Sugar Lobby) doesn't like Splenda. In fact, while they settled their lawsuit which alleged that McNeil Specialty Products falsely advertised Splenda since it is NOT a natural product, our lovely Sugar Lobby has set up a website dedicated to the undoing of Splenda. And for once I am in agreement with the Sugar Association. Splenda is not natural, it IS a chlorinated artificial sweetener.

7) The above website I mentioned cites a Duke University study (as does the Wikipedia article) that shows that sucralose intake of within the FDA approved limit "suppresses beneficial bacteria and directly affects the expression of the transporter P-gp and cytochrome P-450 isozymes that are known to interfere with the bioavailability of drugs and nutrients." So ingesting sucralose at certain levels (well within the FDA safe levels) can decrease many of the good bacteria. But it can also create an environment within the body known to reduce it's ability to absorb and utilize nutrients and medication.

So there you go! That is all the things I learned about Splenda in just one night of searching. What if I had spent more time searching? No major studies linking sucralose and Splenda to cancer. But at the very least, now I am educated. I am still not gonna eat sucralose and Splenda. But maybe, just maybe, someone who reads this will stop.

Just eat real food. Eat honey, rapadura, pure maple syrup. Don't eat alot of it, because it is also not good for you. But first and foremost, ask questions of your food. Google search until you find answers. Be skeptics. And once you find out what you are eating, make a good decision about whether you should continue.

Refer to--
Wikipedia, Sucralose Entry
Wikipedia, Spelda Entry
Food Additives Permitted for Direct Addition to Food for Human Consumption; Sucralose. Food and Drug Administration, Department of Heath and Human Services.

This Post is entered in Real Food Whole Health's Fresh Bites Friday
and Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday


  1. Yuck. I wasn't going to eat it anyway because I don't do artificial sweeteners, but that is about as processed as a "food" can be! Thanks for the education, as always.

  2. If this is true, then that means sucralose could be very dangerous for persons who rely on daily medication for their health, such as my mother who has a congenital heart condition and takes medication every day to keep it working properly. If she consumes enough splenda to interfere with the absorption of her medication her very life could be at risk. This is just as serious, if not more so, than a link to cancer. I dont' eat splenda, I used to, but I have an uneaten bag of it that's been sitting in my cabitnet for about two years (I feel guilty if I eat it, but equaly guilty if I throw it out!) I figured that it hadn't actually been around long enough for them to determine whether or not there were long term side affects, but they would eventually find some. I mean, Sweet 'n' Low had been around for 20 or 30 years before the figured it all out. And yet people still consume it because they think the risk is low and it won't happen to them...which is ridiculous. But this, to me, is shocking. It's very serious. I can't believe some one hasn't made a bigger stink about it. I am really appalled at how little people care. They don't care if their food is food. They are in agreement with the FDA. The defnition of "edible" should be "meant to be consumed by humans." Instead, the widely accepted definition is, "it won't kill me on the spot." I am dumbfounded.


  3. TQ, you are absolutely right, it is really dangerous. I geuss since I don't take daily meds I never thought too much about it. But yeah. It is kinda huge.

    I hope you tell your mom about this.

  4. I stay away from all of it. I feel like nature is telling me something when it tastes bad. And anyone who thinks that the FDA has our back...well...they don't!

  5. Couchpotatomom and TQ--totally agree. The FDA is so NOT watching out for us. GMOs are getting on my last nerve!

  6. I've been trying for a few days not to respond to this for fear of coming off too strongly. First off I will disclose that while I am not a nutritionist, dietitian or food scientist I am however a ICU nurse and have been involved in the food industry my entire life. I hold the original author in high regard and as a dear friend however due to some recent patient problems I feel I have to respond. PLEASE take no offense to this response I am not trying to be condescending or hurtful in any way, the internet is a great source for opinions and editorialism but it is no replacement for appropriate medical care. PLEASE see a health care professional if you are concerned about your diet and its relationship to your health.

  7. 1A. Wikipedia is a great source for referring people to primary source studies but is not a replacement for above listed clinicians when seeking dietary/ medical advice.
    1B. The most dangerous compounds to the body are those that are fat soluble because the body flushes toxins away via the kidneys and obviously urine is water based not oil. Sucralose is extremely water soluble and is fat insoluble so whatever fraction is absorbed or metabolized by the GI tract is eliminated by the kidneys and does not stay in circulation or stored in fatty tissues. 2A. "each yellow packet" is splenda not sucralose and as you mention later the packets contain filler that contributes to the calories.
    2B. The FDA allows for labeling of products as zero calories when the calorie density falls below a threshold, otherwise any compound that can generate any caloric gain would have to be labeled as such, even water in sufficient quantity would contain enough trace sugars and organic compounds that it would have to be listed as having calories.
    3A. The FDA established recommended safe limits based on what reasonable consumptive amounts were likely to be this is NOT saying that amounts greater than that are harmful.
    3B. Commercially yes Dextrose(right handed glucose) and Maltodextrin are processed corn sugars however both exist natural without chemical manipulation. In fact any time you cook table sugar (sucrose(a Disaccharide)) in the presence of moisture (water) you are spiting the sugar into its base monosaccarides (hydrolysis) Dextrose and and fructose.
    4.Sweetness is a neurological impulse and as such varies person to person. Some studies have found that some people who "have a sweet tooth" are basically addicts craving more and more stimuli in this way so potent sweeteners of any kind are dangerous to them. On the other hand other studies have show that some people are satiated by perceived sweetness and are therefor able to eat just a tiny amount of an artificial sweetener of great potency and feel satisfied. So the Jury is out know yourself if you are a sweet addict or you just need a little something sweet once in a while.
    5. Chlorination of a sugar is an involved chemical process yes. but bread from grains is no less complicated if you actually stopped and looked at the biochemical process at work. Hydrolysis converts starches to to sugars and complex sugars to mono saccharides that yeasts then ferment through the use of complicated enzymes releasing CO2 gas alcohol, esters, and other Volatile Organic Compounds(YUP that's right VOC those bad things you are supposed to watch out for in cleaners and paints. Acid base reactions are occurring in baking soda and baking powder giving off more Co2. And the heat is causing the proteins to denature loosing their original form and cleaving to for smaller protein sub units. Is bread simply something based on grains?
    6. Sugar association, they are a lobby group, so of course their product is good all competitors are bad. Politicians blah nuff said
    7. All living things need food, good and bad bacteria alike. Yup you can kill off good bacteria by limiting their available sugar or by their mistakenly absorbing a sweetener in place of sugar for their metabolic needs and yes this can effect uptake of medications. That being said MANY compounds can effect the composition of the flora of the GI tract. This is why most long term medications are monitored and titrated either for effect or by lab follow up. Changes in diet to avoid foods or to increase other foods may have dangerous effects such as over or under dosing of medications. if you are concerned about what effect splenda has on your medication ASK YOUR DOCTOR.

  8. @Jason--Hi! We haven't talked in a while. I am actually thrilled that you posted your comment. Your disclaimer is sweet, but not necessry as I know your words come from well intentioned medical knowledge.

    First and foremost this blog is, for me, an opportunity to ask questions and gain knowledge about stuff I take for granted. I agree, there is alot of quackery out there on the internet. And I understand that I am not a nutritionist, just a girl trying to understand nutrition, unprocessed foods and what I should be eating. My approach is not one of trying to find the perfect diet, but rather repair a broken relationship with food. I am trying to get back to eating real unprocessed foods. And I don't know know of a doctor that takes issue with that. My blog is not anti-medicine. I have been careful to not write things that are anti-medicine, because it would be ignorant to deny the medical advances of the last 1000 years. But I think it is safe to say that you trust doctors alot more than I do. But you have had medical training. And while I DO believe that many medical problems can be avoided through a good and varied diet, food is never an appropriate prescription for a real medical problem.

    And I have read through everything you said--and I do not disagree with any of it. The points of clarification are great. I especially appreciate the info about bread baking. You are right I am probably too simplistic about this. Some more counterpoints though:

    Actually, Wikipedia is a crummy resource for information. When I cite Wikipedia, I always make sure that the information has an adequate bibliography. That may not be fool proof, but I have read several wikipedia pages that weren't properly researched. And in that event I do not use them as a source. There is alot of crap info on the internet. In the case of splenda and sucralose though, the article was long, and looked accurate based off other things I read.

    Yes, the FDA sets limits, but what is important to note is that the Duke University tested amounts per kilogram of body weight that were within the FDA safe levels. I tried to report only what was found in the findings. I will go back and make sure that my words do not extrapolate beyond the findings of the study.

    I did not know that dextrose and glucose were the same thing. Thanks for the calrification.

    But finally, the FDA may tell me that something is safe. But I don't always believe that they have the consumers best interest at heart, they look out for industry maybe slightly more than the average consumer. But I also don't believe that they are some scary conspiracy agency either. I just think some of their calls go to far in favor of industry. They also tell me that GMO foods are safe and I just don't believe it to be true. Firthermore the EU doesn't believe it to be true. I don't want to eat splenda and I stand behind what I have said. Nothing in the above post is designed to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. It should serve as information for those looking to eat more naturally.

    The bottom line is that sugar isn't that bad for you if you eat a teaspoon of it, and splenda is unnecessary. So why eat it at all?

  9. No argument, I don't particularly trust the FDA when it comes to food issues either. My recent patient experiences need to be explained a bit I'm afraid. Recently I've seen a diabetic who didn't like taking medications and wanted to be more natural so she lost all the toes on one foot and had the other foot amputated all together. Another patient who also was diabetic who refused to modify his diet but swore off artificial sweeteners and so had poorly controlled sugars and was in kidney failure. I can go on and on. Diet should not be a replacement for medical care but it should work in tandem with it. As for trust in doctors, you'd actually be surprised at my distrust of doctors. There's an old saying "Doctors save patients but Nurses save Doctors". It takes alot for me to trust a doctor and I encourage that for all my friends and family (and patients) research your doctors, talk to them really investigate whats going on. You wouldn't buy a house or a car without checking it out and that's just matterial. With a doc, it's your life!