The Dangers of Splenda
In the ongoing battle against obesity, the artificial sweetener industry has massively expanded over the last 30 years. When aspartame was found to have possibly dangerous side effects to health as it penetrates the blood-brain barrier, Splenda came to the fore, promoting itself as “made from sugar so it tastes like sugar”. It is currently the top selling sugar substitute with over $177 million in annual sales*. It is widely believed that because Splenda is made from sugar it poses no health risk, yet some people report unpleasant side effects and feel generally unwell. Food retailer Whole Foods actually bans any products containing sucralose from its stores.
Most people rightly assume that household brands such as Splenda are extensively tested before being marketed and are safe to consume. McNeil Nutritionals, makers of Splenda products, claims that over 100 studies have been carried out to ensure that Splenda is safe. Unfortunately it seems that just six of these trials were on humans, they lasted three months maximum, and of the 36 humans it was tested on, 13 were placebos and never received it. Most of the tests were for tooth decay, with just one trial focusing on human toxicology. No studies were carried out on children or pregnant women.
What is Splenda?
Splenda is made in laboratories by chlorinating sucrose, which means adding chlorine to sugar molecules to create “sucralose”. In the chemical process, chlorine, a known carcinogen, replaces the hydroxyl, creating a substance that is 600 times sweeter than sugar. It changes the chemical composition of the sugar molecule so much that our body is unable to metabolize or digest it, hence it is marketed as a calorie-free sweetener.
As well as being a possible health risk, a further complication has arisen. It seems that when we eat “diet” products, the body still releases insulin which lowers blood sugar levels unnecessarily. This may be the reason why people who eat diet products continue to put on weight; in fact they actually eat more as the sweetener tricks the body and the insulin creates more cravings. Far from helping people lose weight, chemical sweeteners may actually stimulate the appetite, causing weight gain rather than countering it.
Is Splenda Safe to Use?
Animal research on Splenda shows that on average 15% of the sucralose/chlorine remains stored in the body, although some people absorb more or less than this figure. This is certainly unnatural and some people claim sucralose has an adverse effect upon their health causing headaches, stomach upsets, poor sleep patterns or nausea when they include it in their diet.
Although he FDA continues to defend the marketing of sucralose, studies by Duke University in 2008 published the results of research showing that rats fed on sucralose for 12 weeks were more prone to obesity and had less healthy intestinal bacteria than those that were not.
In 2004, Splenda was a listed ingredient of over 3,000 products and aspartame was in many more, from children’s medication to toothpaste. In the future, we may look back with horror at how Splenda penetrated so many products in everyday life. Until then it may pay to be safe rather than sorry, by using truly natural sweeteners such as Stevia which is a complex sugar extract extracted from a South American plant.
*According to HealthAtYourFingertips.org
& data supplied by Ann Mills