Is sucralose bad for you

Digital marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to anywhere from 4,000 – 10,000 marketing messages every single day. Amongst the sea of advertisements, brand messages, Instagram rambles and your friends circulating fake news on Facebook, the vetting process between what’s fact or fiction these days, is a subtle art form. One of those misguided headlines circulating for the past several years is the contempt that’s been shown for the artificial sweetener, sucralose. I’m here to give you the facts, and finally put the myth that sucralose is bad for you to rest.

What Is Sucralose? 

The consumption of artificial sweeteners has dramatically increased over the past several years, due to the adverse health effects associated with sugar on overall health, obesity, and metabolic disease states. 

Artificial sweeteners come in a variety of different forms; saccharin, aspartame, Acesulfame potassium, and sucralose. Yet despite the heavy scrutiny, common misconceptions, and negative connotation the word “artificial” may devise, sucralose is in fact, not bad for you.

Sucralose also known by the brand name Splenda is the only sugar substitute that is actually derived from real sugar molecules (sucrose). Sucralose is made through a patented, multi-step process that starts with sugar and selectively replaces three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule with three chlorine atoms. The result is an exceptionally intense sweetener that is 600 times sweeter than conventional sugar but without sugar’s calories [R].Sucralose is the most commonly used sweetener due to its, sugar-like taste, lack of bitterness, stability at high-temperatures, and long shelf life.

Now before you go grab yourself a 24-pack of Diet coke, the mantra “everything in moderation” still full applies, even with sucralose. Too much of anything, is never a good thing.   

Is Sucralose Bad For You?

Sucralose has been subjected to extensive short-term and long-term studies in both animals and humans (more than a hundred of which were reviewed during the FDA approval process for sucralose), and none of them have demonstrated any significant risk to humans associated with the consumption of sucralose in normal amounts.

According to the FDA, sucralose along with all other artificial sweeteners are, GRAS or “generally recognized as safe.” New ingredients must meet certain FDA requirements and obtain GRAS status in order to be used in a commercially available product marketed to consumers.

Numerous studies have concluded that sucralose is safe and that your body does not acquire any calories from the ingestion of sucralose. Most ingested sucralose moves through the gastrointestinal tract unchanged. So, why all the hype about sucralose and gut health? Well, it all comes down to one, short, inconclusive 12-week study conducted on rats, in 2008.

The Truth About Sucralose And Gut Health

Your gut microbiome is comprised of billions of healthy bacteria, that help aid in digestion, boost your immune system, and lower your overall susceptibility to chronic illness and disease.

In a 12-week rat study published in the journal of toxicology and environmental health, researchers investigated the health effects of sucralose on the gut microbiome. The results indicated that there was a reduction in the total number of healthy gut bacteria, a reduction in beneficial fecal microflora, and an increase in fecal pH [R].

The study also indicated that sucralose increased the expression of certain cytochrome P450 (CYP450) enzymes and the transporter protein, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), the latter of which was considered evidence that Splenda or sucralose might interfere with the absorption/bioavailability of nutrients and drugs [RR].

However, an expert panel reviewed the study and concluded it to be deficient, bias, and inconclusive in many aspects.

Published in the Journal of The Regulatory Toxicology And Pharmacology just one year later, the investigation revealed that the product tested in the rat study, in fact only contained 1% sucralose and contained 99% maltodextrin (a form of modified corn starch predominantly used in a majority of fast acting carbohydrate supplements).

In the rigorous study, the expert panel found that the rat study was deficient in several critical areas and that its results cannot be interpreted as evidence that either Splenda, or sucralose, produced adverse effects in male rats, including effects on gastrointestinal microflora, body weight, CYP450 and P-gp activity, and nutrient and drug absorption. The study conclusions are not consistent with published literature and not supported by the data presented [R].

A more recent study published in the Journal of British Nutrition gave high doses of sucralose to 34 male subjects, and observed no alteration in gut microbiome, glycemic control, or insulin resistance [R].

Therefore, according to research findings, sucralose is not bad for gut health.

Is Sucralose Bad For You: Takeaway

The fact is, sucralose is not bad for you. The term artificial gets a bad rap, because it’s been molecularly altered. But it’s important to recognize that “natural” sweeteners such as stevia or Truvia also go under a refining process. The word “natural” is very loosely regulated by the FDA, and gives manufacturers the right to use the word for marketing purposes, even when only one component of an ingredient or product is derived from a natural source.

Every regulatory agency, that has ever reviewed the scientific research on sucralose, deems it as non-toxic and safe. Based upon a wide range of studies, sucralose does not cause cancer, or have any associated harmful effect upon the digestive system, long-term health, or affect blood glucose levels [R]. As a consumer, it’s important to filter the bullshit and syphon the facts. Just because Karen posted on Facebook and said that sucralose is bad, does not mean it’s true.

 

References

Thomson P, Santibañez R, Aguirre C, Galgani JE, Garrido D. Short-term impact of sucralose consumption on the metabolic response and gut microbiome of healthy adults. Br J Nutr. 2019 Oct 28;122(8):856-862. doi: 10.1017/S0007114519001570. Epub 2019 Sep 13. PMID: 31258108.

Ruiz-Ojeda, Francisco Javier et al. “Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials.” Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.) vol. 10,suppl_1 (2019): S31-S48. doi:10.1093/advances/nmy037

Abou-Donia MB, El-Masry EM, Abdel-Rahman AA, McLendon RE, Schiffman SS. Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2008;71(21):1415-29. doi: 10.1080/15287390802328630. PMID: 18800291.

Schiffman, Susan S, and Kristina I Rother. “Sucralose, a synthetic organochlorine sweetener: overview of biological issues.” Journal of toxicology and environmental health. Part B, Critical reviews vol. 16,7 (2013): 399-451. doi:10.1080/10937404.2013.842523

M, Soffritti et al. “Sucralose administered in feed, beginning prenatally through lifespan, induces hematopoietic neoplasias in male swiss mice.” International journal of occupational and environmental health vol. 22,1 (2016): 7-17. doi:10.1080/10773525.2015.1106075

Thomson P, Santibañez R, Aguirre C, Galgani JE, Garrido D. Short-term impact of sucralose consumption on the metabolic response and gut microbiome of healthy adults. Br J Nutr. 2019 Oct 28;122(8):856-862. doi: 10.1017/S0007114519001570. Epub 2019 Sep 13. PMID: 31258108.

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