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Is Sucralose Bad for you?

by Trevor Hiltbrand | Reviewed by Advisory Board

Sucralose packets face down on a blue wooden table

It’s no secret that having too much sugar affects your health. This well-known truth is what drives so many people to opt for sweeteners instead.

So let’s get into it. Is sucralose bad for you?

The most common sweetener, sucralose, is somewhat controversial for a number of reasons. And when it comes to your health, it can be tough to know which foods are helping your body and which are actually hurting it. So we’re spilling the tea on sucralose dangers and letting you know if it’s worth the risk.


What is sucralose?

Spoon full of sugar on solid black background

It’s an artificial sweetener that has no calories. Sounds like a sugar addict’s dream, right? 

Wrong.

It does come from sugar but it goes through a lot of chemical processes to replace hydrogen-oxygen groups with chlorine atoms. This replacement is what gives the product its incredibly sweet flavor without the added calories.

It was discovered in 1976 by a young scientist at a British college who misheard the instructions to test the sucralose compound and tasted it instead, surprised by its sweetness. Thus, artificial sweeteners entered US households, marketed under the name “Splenda” [1].

How is it used?

Brown soda in a glass with a lemon wedge on the side

Artificial sweeteners like sucralose are used in baking, cooking, and as a condiment in many foods. They are even added to some foods in the manufacturing stage, so when we buy it, it already contains sweeteners and can boast zero calories on its packaging.

Sucralose is very commonly used, but this sugar substitute could slowly be killing your health.

It is important to note that although sucralose contains no calories, some artificial sweetener brands may contain a small amount. Splenda, for example, contains 3.36 calories per gram, although many consider this amount virtually insignificant.

What does it do to your body?

Many argue that sucralose doesn’t affect your blood sugar and insulin levels.

But don’t rip open a packet of Splenda just yet.

There are sucralose dangers that need to be considered. Ironically, sucralose can cause harm to the very people who may require a sugar substitute more than anyone else: individuals with diabetes. A study of obese individuals revealed a 14% increase in blood sugar and a 20% increase in insulin levels [2].

Although the results in that study may be somewhat inconclusive for individuals with normal weight, there have been studies on patients with such body types. In fact, one such study even claimed sucralose can affect your blood sugar even more than if you were to consume sugary sodas and desserts. [3]

Diabetes — Blood Sugar and Insulin

The aforementioned study on obese individuals involved subjects that did not regularly use artificial sweeteners. Their spike in blood sugar and insulin levels could be a result of this. This tells us that you could be at a greater risk for blood sugar and insulin issues if your body isn’t used to regular sucralose consumption.

But that’s no reason to start trying to build up your tolerance to sucralose. There are other sucralose side effects. Artificial sweeteners like Splenda have dangerous chemical reactions when heated and mixed with things like glycerol (found in fat), increasing your risk of cancer [4]. The heating alone creates chloropropanols—a class of compounds known to be harmful to the body and affect the reproductive system.

To continue baking and avoid putting yourself at risk for such harmful diseases, use natural sweeteners like stevia. Otherwise, be particularly aware of your baking temperatures. Stick to temperatures below 350°F if an artificial sweetener must be used—although such a necessity should never be the case [5].

Gut Health

Your gut houses bacteria that can help regulate your overall health by aiding digestive functions and giving your immune system a boost as well as reducing your risk for disease [6].

In a 12-week study to learn about the sucralose side effects on rats that consumed Splenda, researchers found that the rats that consumed the sweetener had up to 80% fewer beneficial anaerobic bacteria present in their guts.

In addition to suppressed beneficial anaerobes, the rats that consumed sweetener also had lower amounts of bifidobacteria and acid bacteria (both beneficial bacteria), with little change to the number of harmful bacteria present [7]. After the study, it was also noted that the bacteria had not returned to normal and remained at unhealthy levels [7].

Weight Loss

Sucralose, the popular zero-calorie sweetener, is believed to aid in weight loss, but there’s no evidence that it really affects your weight.

Although some studies have shown no significant link between sucralose and body weight, some studies provide evidence for the role of sucralose in higher BMIs [8]. In any case, it is best to prevent any sucralose dangers by avoiding sucralose altogether.

Sucralose vs. Stevia

Stevia plant beside white powder in wooden spoon on wooden surface

Sucralose is a common artificial sweetener, used as the base of many popular sugar substitutes, such as Splenda. Stevia is also a sugar substitute but is made from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant, making it a natural alternative to both sugar and artificial sweeteners. 

Calories

Sucralose is considered a no-calorie sweetener, but Splenda still contains a small number of calories and carbs [9]. However, because these amounts meet the FDA standards for no-calorie foods, they can be marketed as such. But unlike sucralose, stevia contains absolutely zero calories thanks to its natural source and cleaner processing [10].

Flavor

Because sucralose is made from sugar, it tastes very much like sugar and is much sweeter. However, the naturally-derived stevia sweetener is still about 300 times sweeter than sugar and just as flavorful. Some people notice a unique aftertaste with stevia, but this distinction is usually negligible and doesn’t take long to get accustomed to—as is the case with most other healthier food alternatives.

Sucralose is better used as a condiment, sprinkled over your food or stirred into your drinks for a sweet boost, but because of the harmful chemical reactions that occur when it is heated to certain temperatures, natural sweeteners like stevia are the smarter option. Stevia can be heated to higher temperatures in cooking and baking.

Not only is stevia a healthier option overall, but there is evidence that suggests its medicinal properties as well, namely its anti-hypertensive, anti-tumor, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-diarrheal, diuretic, and immunomodulatory abilities.

Health Benefits and Dangers

White bathroom scale on wooden surface

Both sucralose and stevia are considered healthy sugar alternatives simply because they are not sugar. But unfortunately, the general public lacks proper education on the dangers of sucralose vs. stevia.

Consuming sucralose may lead to serious health conditions or worsen conditions already affecting the body. In a study at Duke University in 2008, researchers noticed negative changes in the gut health of rats that regularly consumed sucralose [11].

Stevia, on the other hand, not only avoids the dangers that come with sucralose consumption but may even have health benefits. A study on individuals of varying weights revealed that the participants who consumed stevia not only showed lower levels of insulin and glucose but also felt full after eating [12].

Whereas sucralose is known to cause issues with blood sugar and insulin levels, stevia is a safe and natural sweetener for diabetics, individuals with gut issues, and people with other health concerns. One study on the effect of stevia on lipid profile demonstrated stevia’s ability to lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increase good cholesterol [13].

In addition, stevia as a sweetener underwent testing by the European Food Safety Authority and was determined as a natural alternative that poses no risk of toxicity when consumed [14].

So is sucralose bad for you or not?

Here’s the bottom line: sucralose isn’t going to kill you—it’s not poison—but regular use of it may lead to dangerous health problems. We recommend avoiding it when possible and using stevia instead.

While it’s always good to choose the healthier alternatives for your favorite foods, it’s important to know what those healthy alternatives are. Sucralose is marketed as a healthy, zero-calorie sweetener when it not only contains small amounts of these things but also has properties and other ingredients that are harmful to your health. But the good news is that we’re talking about sweeteners. Sweeteners aren’t a necessity and aren’t a required food in the food pyramid. In fact, the pyramid illustrates the sparing use of these sweet substances. Sugars and sweeteners alike should both be used sparingly. And if your sweet tooth is really begging you for some love, it is best to use stevia.

There you have it. That’s the tea—with or without the sweetener.

About Transparent Labs

Transparent Labs is more than just a supplements company. We’re a team dedicated to bringing you high-quality products with clean ingredients. All of our supplements contain zero food dyes, harmful additives, or unnecessary fillers and include natural sweeteners and active ingredients at clinically effective dosages.

Try our supplements today and feel the Transparent Labs difference!




Trevor Hiltbrand
Trevor Hiltbrand

Author

Trevor Hiltbrand is one of the owners/co-founders of Transparent Labs and head of content creation. He got his start with supplement research back in 2013 when he began researching cognitive enhancement. With the help of the Transparent Labs Expert Panel and Advisory Board, we aim to bring our evidence based nutrition and exercise research to the world.



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