Splenda is the brand name for sucralose, a modified form of common table sugar. Some of the hydrogen-oxygen groups of sugar molecules are replaced with chlorine atoms. This process creates sucralose, a very sweet substance with zero calories (source).
Splenda is used in a lot of products including diet sodas and reduced calorie baked goods, but is the savings in calories worth the potential health risks?
Splenda in the Scientific Literature
A number of studies have investigated the effects of sucralose in laboratory rats. Potential health problems include:
- Reduction in good bacteria in the digestive system
- Limits the absorption of medications
- Decomposes during baking – releasing a potentially toxic compound
- Changes in blood sugar levels
- Heart problems
The Food and Drug Administration disputes some of the claims made in these studies. The government body has determined sucralose to be what it calls “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS.) This means that consumed in small does, even over extended periods, the given substance will not cause harm to most people (source). Food manufactures also dispute some of the health issues cited in the studies. For example, Splenda is considered to be one of the most heat stable of the commonly used artificial sweeteners (sugar.org).
Skip the Splenda
Given the potential health issues it seems prudent to at least limit your intake of sucralose as much as possible. You won’t be missing out on any nutritional benefits, only the “potential” savings in calories. The better option is to consume products with natural sugar in moderate amounts. This is something I am facing because I’ve had a habit of drinking some diet sodas with Splenda, believing it was a safer alternative to products with NutraSweet (aspartame.) Drinking one regular soda is probably a lot healthier in the long run than drinking several zero calorie sodas that contain the artificial sweetener.