Sucralose – The Truth About the Popular Sweetener

There is a lot of nonsense being passed around for fact about sucralose, the sweetener found in Splenda®. The one website that started all of the controversy, (no I won’t link to it because that would be defeating the purpose of my rant) makes a series of outrageous claims, he says is based on fact.  I don’t know where he got his definition of fact but my definition doesn’t grow on that tree.

In my humble opinion, his claim is heavily poisoned due to his blatant sales of the natural sweetener stevia.  One on page of false, anti-sucralose nonsense, he doesn’t just tout his brand of stevia once or twice.  Oh, no, he does it 17 times!!! Talk about in your face.

So what’s the truth Mark?  Well here is a paper I wrote a while back for my corporate website, Carbon Based Corporation (go there if you’re interested in learning more about lab testing).

Let’s look at some of the claims against sucralose first:

1. Shrunken thymus glands (up to 40% shrinkage)
2. Only 19 studies on the sweetener exist
3. Correlating sucralose to chlorinated pesticides
4. Absorption and metabolism of sucralose
5. High levels of contaminants
6. No post-approval monitoring

1. The problem with the claim that sucralose shrinks the thymus gland is when you read the study you find that “atrophy of the lymph follicles in the spleen and thymus was observed in the 50,000 ppm group.” The ones fed sucralose at 10,000 and 25,000 ppm did not show this effect. Also, only one toxicologist, Judith Bellin, has disputed the manufacturer’s claims that the effect seen at 50,000 ppm was due to starvation and not from the sucralose.

2. This is blatantly misleading. In the FDA Talk Paper of April 1, 1998 – T98-16, the paper says the following, “In determining the safety of sucralose, FDA reviewed data from more than 110 studies in humans and animals.” To the websites credit, they do indicate that this was the number of studies determined by a MEDLINE search but the problem is that not all studies are reported through this manner so the information he uses is misleading.

3. Comparing sucralose to chlorinated pesticides is a reach at best. This is theoretical and not has not been proven anywhere in the literature. Chemists we’ve spoken to view this claim with disbelief.

4. There is a claim of high absorption of sucralose of up to 40%. First off, since sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar, far less needs to be used to gain the same sweetening effect so if absorption is even as high as claimed the amount is miniscule. Second, the preponderance of the literature suggests that sucralose is not absorbed readily in the gut. Most studies admit a 15% passive absorption of sucralose in the G.I. tract but one must remember the minute amounts being used to put this issue in perspective and that much of what has been absorbed is excreted in the urine unchanged. Some argue that intestinal bacteria in the gut (mostly pathogenic) metabolize sucralose but according to Farhadi A, et al, “bacteria metabolized lactulose and acidified the media but did not metabolize sucralose or mannitol.”

5. The argument that high levels of contaminants were found in sucralose is somewhat misleading. The contaminants found in sucralose are similar to many foods we use without question. We live in a contaminated environment which we believe is a major contributor to our many health problems, but you have to be realistic in the review of what is and is not significant. In a perfect world, there would be no need to use a sweetener, but we do not live in one. When trying to mask the bitter and highly objectionable taste of an amino acid complex, compromises are necessary. After careful consideration and an honest review of the literature, sucralose seemed to be the safest and best choice.

The fact that sucralose is produced at an approximate purity of 98% and therefore the rest must be dangerous is conjecture also and a biased interpretation of the literature. The added comment that, “Although manufacturing guidelines do specify limits on these substances there is no guarantee that such limits will always be met.” is a Chicken Little argument. Not every manufacturer is evil and wanting to get away with something. Yes, there may be unscrupulous companies, especially when it comes to other much more popular sweeteners, but you cannot make a linear correlation every time something new comes along.

6. No post approval monitoring. Curious that one of the links provided from the website, the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center, claims that “A possible problem with casecal enlargement and renal mineralization has been seen in post approval animal research.” (my italics) There are currently numerous ongoing studies around the world being published on research relating to the potential harmful effects of sucralose. This is another example of a misleading comment. Baird IM, Shephard NW, Merritt RJ, Hildick-Smith G conducted a human study on different doses of sucralose and found no side effects after approval was granted.

Now before you go off half cocked and tell me that sucralose made me/my kid/my mother/a friend sick, I believe you.  Sugar makes people sick as does a lot of different foods.  Just because someone had a bad reaction, doesn’t mean it is bad for everyone or it offers some proof of toxicity. My daughter has seizures if she has olives, a pretty nasty reaction.  Do I go around using that as a platform to ban evil olives from the market?  Of course not. Same criteria should be used here.  If it is bad for a lot of people and offers no benefits at all like aspartame should we ban it?  Damn right we should. There is no evidence that sucralose is anywhere near as bad as aspartame and the nonsense used against it is pretty much just bad reading of the literature at best, or a down right pack of lies at worst.  You be the judge.