I’m often asked which artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes I prefer. The answer, quite simply, is few of them because most create a wide variety of negative side effects. The newest, Splenda (Sucralose), has its own dangerous history and set of dangerous consequences. The dangers of Sucralose and the side effects of Sucralose cannot be denied. Sucralose is marketed and commonly known as Splenda. I use both names in this post.
Let’s look at some surprising facts about Sucralose:
Sucralose History and Testing
Sucralose was discovered by a grad student in London in 1976 while working on a study focused on creating new INSECTICIDES. That’s right. Splenda was “accidentally” discovered as part of a research study focused on creating death agent insecticides. (On a side note, DDT, a poison now banned, has a very similar chemical structure to Sucralose. Doesn’t that sound delicious?) McNeil Nutritionals, the manufacturer of Splenda, claims that hundreds of studies were done on Splenda. The truth is that most of those studies were designed and paid for by McNeil (which puts their validity in question) and that almost all the studies were performed on animals, were very short term, and did not test safety but instead tested secondary effects such as tooth decay. This means that McNeil never tested the effects Splenda has on the endocrine system, metabolism, liver and kidney function, or any other physiological effects.
The truth is that only six human studies were conducted, the longest of which was three months. (Most people use Splenda far longer.) For more information on the ways research studies and their results are often faulty, please read my post Simple Ways to Evaluate the Validity of a Research Study. NO studies on Sucralose safety have been conducted on children or pregnant women, in spite of the fact that studies performed on rats showed the offspring of pregnant females fed Splenda had decreased intelligence, smaller sexual organs, failed to thrive and had a variety of behavioral problems. Splenda is also commonly used in products strongly marketed to children, even though the manufacturer doesn’t know for sure that it’s safe for children to consume it. Independent human studies showed Splenda impaired liver function, caused enlarged kidneys and liver, decreased the number of red blood cells in the blood (caused anemia), impaired absorption of essential minerals such as magnesium and potassium, and caused significant shrinkage of the Thymus gland, one of the most important glands involved in immunity.
Splenda side effects have also been strongly linked to psychological problems including dementia, severe depression and sleep disorders. Splenda has also been linked to increased rates of autoimmune disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Diabetes and others. The most common side effect of Splenda is digestive disturbances such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Increased cataract rates were also noted.
The biggest insult is that use of Splenda has been linked to–you guessed it–weight gain. An independent study performed at Duke University and published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health confirmed that use of Splenda causes side effects such as weight gain and multiple digestive disorders, some with symptoms as severe as Crohn’s Disease. If you haven’t thrown away your box of Splenda yet, please read on.
Chemical Structure of Sucralose:
Proponents of Sucralose claim it is “natural” because it’s made from sugar. The truth is that chemists took the natural sugar molecule and combined it with chlorine. Chlorine is a known poison which is very commonly used in insecticides and in current and past biological warfare agents. (Remember the Chlorine Gas used in WWII? More recent biological warfare agents still use chlorine but are even more deadly.) McNeil claims chlorine occurs in nature and in our foods, another untruth. The truth is that chlorine only occurs in chemistry labs. Chloride occurs in nature, but only when combined with other chemicals that make it a non-poison. One of the reasons Splenda has no immediate effect on blood sugar is because your body does not recognize it and it cannot be absorbed by the digestive tract.
The problem, which McNeil admits, is that your body absorbs 15-18% of the Splenda consumed, but has no means to eliminate it. Your body cannot eliminate it because it is a chemical structure your body was not designed to eliminate. When you consume Splenda, your body is absorbing chlorine and other toxins from Splenda, but the chlorine–a known poison–has an almost indefinite afterlife in your tissues. Tissues and cells which have absorbed a toxic substance do not function correctly. Period. (Watch for a future post on the damaging effects chlorine in tap water has.)
If those terms were overly simplified, here’s the chemical explanation: To create Splenda, the organic sugar molecule is treated with acetic anhydride, trityl chloride, hydrogen chloride, thionyl chloride and methanol. This all occurs in combination with toluene, dimethylformamide, 4-methylmorpholine, methyl isobutyl ketone, acetic acid, benzyltriammonium chloride, and sodium methoxide. The end result is not a sugar molecule, but is a chlorinated hydrocarbon molecule.
The most common uses of chlorinated hydrocarbons include insecticides, chemical solvents and degreasers, and the production of plastics. Many chlorinated hydrocarbons are being banned from industrial use because of their environmental toxicity and because their use accelerates the destruction of the ozone layer. Does that sound like something you want to consume on a daily basis?
Needless to say, Splenda is a banned substance in my home. The side effects and dangers of Splenda are too dangerous to allow. A fairly complete list of commercial products containing Sucralose can be found at Sucralose US Product List. The list is shockingly huge and contains many products aimed at children. This concerns me greatly.
Sugar Substitute Alternatives
My choice of a non-caloric sweetener and sugar substitute that has no glycemic effect is Stevia. Stevia is an herb which is 300 times sweeter than sugar but which has NO known side effects. (Some recent studies suggested Stevia may decrease testosterone levels in men, but those studies used faulty protocols that guaranteed negative side effects.) Stevia is the only sweetener (other than coconut sugar and agave nectar) we use in our house. My favorite Stevia is made by the company SweetLeaf. I carry it with me everywhere. You can purchase it in most groceries or on Amazon (SweetLeaf Packets or SweetLeaf Liquid).
If you want additional information on the dangers of artificial sweeteners, I highly recommend Dr. Mercola’s book, Sweet Deception.
Just out of curiosity, what sweetener do you use? Have you had negative effects from an artificial sweetener? If so, please share! Help others avoid the danger!