If you’ve read my articles over the past few years, you may be led to believe that I hate sugar.
This isn’t true in the least.
Sugar in excess isn’t good for us.
But sugar on its own, and consumed in limited quantities, isn’t dangerous to people.
The primary reason sugar can be so problematic is that we have a tendency to overindulge in it, and this can send our metabolism into a death spiral.
Because sugar has been touted as dangerous, without the qualifier of too much sugar being the problem, many have been deceived into believing that artificial sweeteners such as Splenda® (or Sucralose) are a viable alternative to making things sweet without the adverse effects associated with sugar.
The problem, though, is while sugar is healthy for us in small amounts (healthy, meaning it presents to the body without issue), artificial sweeteners are far from healthy, even in small amounts.
As you’ll see, even though the FDA has approved the use of sucralose for human consumption, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
If you’ve been using sucralose as a substitute for sugar, I would suggest you quit using it in favor of natural, low-calorie sweeteners.
Sucralose is a problem, and you’ll quickly learn it could be hurting you as bad (or more) than sugar.
What Is Sucralose and Why Is It so Dangerous?
Sucralose is a prominent artificial sweetener employed globally in low-calorie and dietary food and beverage products.
Despite its promotion as a more favorable option for weight management, sucralose’s health profile has provoked apprehension among researchers, and the multitude of adverse effects and hazards linked to sucralose cannot be dismissed.
So what Is sucralose (AKA Splenda)?
Sucralose is a chlorinated sucrose derivative, signifying its origin from sugar and the inclusion of chlorine.
While I’m sure you don’t care all that much, I might as well tell you the complex procedure of creating sucralose involves the substitution of the three hydrogen-oxygen groups of sugar with chlorine atoms, intensifying its sweetness.
Interestingly, sucralose was initially discovered during the development of an insecticide compound!
The guys who made it never intended for human consumption but somehow they discovered it was sweet and then flooded the market with it as a safe substitute for sugar.
In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sanctioned sucralose for use in various food and beverage categories, and then in 1999, it got approval for general-purpose sweetening in all food and beverage categories.
As you can guess, if a product was made to be an insecticide and we now eat it, there are likely to be a ton of problems.
The Side Effects and Risks of Sucralose
It’s not surprising that people who substitute sucralose for sugar over-indulge in it.
Since it’s unhealthy at any weight, imagine what happens when you eat pounds of it in a year?!
Here are a few things we believe sucralose may do.
1 – It May Induce Diabetes
If you don’t want to get diabetes, you may want to ditch sucralose. Research published in the journal Diabetes Care has shown there’s a high risk of developing diabetes when you eat a lot of sucralose.
The study indicated daily consumption of diet soda sweetened with sucralose was linked to a 36 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome and a 67 percent elevated risk of type 2 diabetes.
To get these results, researchers conducted tests with human subjects for the first time.
They focused on 17 insulin-sensitive obese individuals who were given glucose tolerance tests after consuming either sucralose or water.
The results showed increased peak plasma glucose concentrations following sucralose consumption and a 23 percent decrease in insulin sensitivity, which is far from ideal as it hinders glucose absorption in cells.
In 2020, a study in Cell Metabolism showed that sucralose and carbohydrate consumption severely disrupted glucose metabolism and interfered with gut-brain regulation of glucose metabolism.
Another study in 2023 found that long-term sucralose consumption led to hepatic insulin resistance.
All this is to show there’s a chance that using this ingredient to avoid developing diabetes from sugar could actually backfire.
2 – Elevated Risk of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease
Several years back, Dr. Xin Qin, a researcher hailing from the New Jersey Medical School, stumbled upon a significant link between the intake of sucralose and the manifestation of symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
Anyone who’s familiar with gut health would be aware that these are some of the more debilitating gut issues around.
The way Dr. Qin came upon this connection was due to his investigation of a surge in IBS cases among the populace of Alberta, Canada.
Over 20 years, the number of IBS cases reported rose and Dr. Qin was able to determine that the increasing use of sucralose had a detrimental impact on the balance of gut bacteria in comparison to other artificial sweeteners like saccharin.
Part of the reason he was able to make this determination so easily is because Canada granted approval for the use of sucralose as an artificial sweetener in 1991.
And that’s right around the time a parallel increase in inflammatory bowel disease cases was being reported. An increase of 643% that could not be ignored!
A recent scientific inquiry, as featured in the publication Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, accentuated the fact that the utilization of artificial sweeteners such as Splenda doubled the susceptibility to Crohn’s disease.
The problem, too, is sucralose made antimicrobial reactions in the intestinal tract among individuals grappling with Crohn’s disease, etc. far worse than they should have been.
To sum it up, sucralose has been implicated in causing abdominal bloating and potentially fueling inflammation and the onset of IBS symptoms in certain instances.
3 – Could Cause You to Gain Weight (and won’t cause you to lose weight)
Sadly, so many people are using sucralose to remain trim and fit.
But as it turns out, both human epidemiological studies and laboratory experiments on animals suggest a correlation between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and increased body weight.
Not a loss in weight…
And as I’ve written, being overweight is one of the key contributors to being unhealthy in life.
In an 18-month clinical trial reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, 641 children (477 of whom completed the study) were randomly assigned to receive an eight-ounce daily serving of either a no-calorie sweetened beverage or a sugar-sweetened beverage containing 104 calories.
The sugar-free beverage contained 34 milligrams of sucralose and 12 milligrams of acesulfame-K. At the study’s conclusion, the calorie intake from these beverages was 46,627 calories (this is equivalent to 23 extra days of eating) higher for the group consuming sugar-sweetened beverages compared to the group consuming sucralose-sweetened beverages.
However, despite the significant difference in caloric consumption from beverages, the total weight gain over the 18-month period was 2.2 pounds greater for children in the sugar-sweetened group.
Another study involving adolescents demonstrated inconsistent reductions in weight gain over two years after families were provided with artificially sweetened beverages to diminish their consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas.
So, does sucralose contribute to weight gain?
The evidence suggests that, in many cases, it does not facilitate weight loss. Therefore, for individuals incorporating sucralose into their cooking, baking, or coffee with the goal of calorie control, it appears to be an ineffective weight management strategy.
And I’d argue, based on the potential it has to contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, that it could cause weight gain as a downstream effect, and when people think they are managing weight with something that is healthy, it may cause them to overeat.
So What Should You Use Instead?
Here’s the deal.
You can have sugar, but you just want to limit your carbohydrate intake. I’d suggest most people take in less than 120 grams a day, if not less.
So, sugar does have a place in the modern diet.
That being said, if you want sweet and you don’t want danger, natural low-calorie sweeteners are out there.
1 – Stevia: Stevia, a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, stands out as an excellent choice for those seeking a low-calorie or zero-calorie alternative to sugar. It boasts a sweetness that far surpasses that of sugar, requiring only a tiny amount to sweeten your foods and drinks without adding any calories.
2 – Monk Fruit Extract: Extracted from the monk fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo, monk fruit extract is a calorie-free sweetener option. Its intense sweetness means that you need only a small quantity to achieve the desired sweetness level.
3 – Erythritol: Erythritol, a sugar alcohol, is naturally present in certain fruits and fermented foods. It is virtually calorie-free and closely mimics the taste and texture of sugar, making it a popular sugar substitute in various recipes and beverages.
4 – Xylitol: Xylitol, another sugar alcohol, occurs naturally in small amounts in fruits and vegetables. It offers fewer calories than sugar and is commonly used in sugar-free gum and candies.
5 – Allulose: Allulose is a rare sugar that can be found in minute quantities in select foods like wheat and raisins. Despite its sweet taste, it is not metabolized by the body, resulting in minimal calorie impact.
I’d use these long before sucralose or any other artificial sweetener.
Hope you enjoyed learning about why sucralose is anything but awesome.