Stevia and sucralose (Splenda) are both sweeteners, which are many times sweeter than ordinary table sugar. While Stevia is commonly thought to be a safer alternative than sucralose due to its natural origins, research indicates, that this may not be entirely true. So what's the difference between stevia and sucralose?
What Is Stevia?
Native to South America, stevia is a naturally sourced, zero-calorie sweetener that has been used as a natural sugar substitute for hundreds of years. Traditionally known as yerba dulce (sweet herb), stevia is a concentrated extract made from the leaves of the stevia plant, which is grown in Brazil, Paraguay, and areas of Southeast Asia.
The sweet tasting components of stevia are comprised of what’s called glycosides, which are naturally present in the stevia plant. There are 11 major glycosides, in which, rebaudioside A, is the most abundant.
Is Stevia Safe?
Due to its natural origin stevia is commonly interpreted and perceived to be a safer alternative than it’s artificial sweetener counterpart sucralose. However, just because something is natural and found in nature, does not guarantee its safety. Arsenic is also 100% natural, which hardly qualifies it as being safe. In the past, the U.S. and Canada previously rejected stevia. Additionally, a European Community scientific panel decided that stevia was not an acceptable food additive.3 When stevia was first introduced into the U.S. market, it was limited and available only as a dietary supplement. Finally, in 2008, stevia became recognized as a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) food substance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which gave it use as an added sugar substitute component in foods and beverages.1
What Is Sucralose?
Sucralose 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 tastes like sugar but without sugar’s calories.3 Sucralose much like stevia, is a zero-calorie sweetener, as it passes through the digestive system, without being metabolized.
Is Sucralose Safe?
Despite heavy scrutiny and common misconceptions, sucralose is not bad for you. 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.2
What Is The Difference Between Stevia And Sucralose?
The biggest difference between stevia and sucralose is their origin. Stevia comes from the stevia plant, which is found in nature when sucralose is a modified form of sugar (made by removing sugar-oxygen groups of sugar and replacing them with chlorine). It’s imperative to remember, however, that chlorine, is found in many safe components of food. Both stevia and sucralose are considered safe and have no known harmful effects, or associated known toxicity.
The important thing to remember is that just because stevia is found in nature, does not make it safer than other food additives or components. Much like natural vs. artificial flavors, the nutritional difference between stevia and sucralose is irrelevant. Sucralose may be refined to be sweet, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. Stevia also has to undergo a refining process, which requires other chemical constituents, and ingredients. Being marketed as, “natural” is only possible, because it is found in nature. Stevia, is simply one extract, which is part of a process, to refine a zero-calorie sweetener, much like sugar is the main component, to produce sucralose.
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- Ashwell, Margaret. “Stevia, Nature’s Zero-Calorie Sustainable Sweetener: A New Player in the Fight Against Obesity.” Nutrition Today3 (2015): 129–134. PMC. Web. 6 Mar. 2018.
- Berry, Colin et al. “Sucralose Non-Carcinogenicity: A Review of the Scientific and Regulatory Rationale.” Nutrition and Cancer8 (2016): 1247–1261. PMC. Web. 6 Mar. 2018.
- “Stevia Vs. Sucralose.” Healthy Eating | SF Gate, healthyeating.sfgate.com/stevia-vs-sucralose-10342.html