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Sucralose - The Facts, Safety and Benefits

Updated: 06/25/2017


What is Sucralose?

      Sucralose is a sugar substitute that was discovered in 1976 and its popularity has soared within the sugar free food and beverage industries since its commercial introduction. By volume Sucralose is the sweetest of all the major sugar substitutes on the consumer market and the only one that's derived from real sugar. Yes that's correct, sucralose is made from actual sugar, yet it's not sugar. Sounds odd, but let me explain... During the manufacturing process, three chlorine atoms replace three hydroxyl groups within a sugar molecule. This molecular change bolsters the sweetness and modifies the sugar molecule in such a way that it cannot be broken down by the human digestive system like a regular sugar molecule is. So while it tastes nearly the same as sugar and is many times sweeter, it has none of the effects sugar does on the body. It's also quite stable against high temperature and works well in hot and cold beverages, as well as in baking, without any significant loss of flavor [1].
      Sucralose is available for home use as a replacement for table sugar or as a sweetener for your own homemade sugar free drinks. In the consumer marketplace sucralose is most commonly marketed under the brand name Splenda, though Equal brand sweetener and a handful of other smaller companies have also released sucralose-based products.
      Most sucralose-based powdered sugar substitutes in single-serve packets or spoonable canisters and bags have some type of added bulking and flowing agent to make the product easier to use and measure for consumers, since the actual amount of sucralose needed to equal 2 teaspoons of table sugar is minute (about 1/64th to 1/80th of one teaspoon). These agents are usually a glucose in the form of dextrose or maltodextrin derived from either GMO or non-GMO starchy plants such as corn or rice. The added sugars contribute a trivial amount of carbohydrates and don't affect blood sugar levels when used reasonably. Nonetheless, for those that like to use a hefty amount of sweetener (like 10 packets) in a single 8oz or 16oz serving of their favorite beverage, these added bulking and flowing agents are a small source of additional sugar and calories to be considered when meal planning (there are less than 5 calories per packet). Generally, up to 4 or 5 packets can be consumed at once in a single serving before the amount of dextrose or maltodextrin passes the point of being a "free" food in the food exchange system - this applies to all sugar substitutes with glucose-based additives regardless of the type of base sweetener (e.g. Splenda, Equal Classic, Sweet 'n Low, Stevia in The Raw, etc.) [2].
      For those that want to avoid any added bulking/flowing agents, there are a number of companies that offer just 100% pure sucralose powder without any additives; a good example is sucralose from Wholesale Health Connection (WHC). Inevitably you'll also see concentrated sucralose liquids on the market and these will vary in quantity and quality of ingredients, taste, and overall value.

Is Sucralose Safe?

      Sucralose is USFDA approved and according to the National Cancer Institute it has been subject to over 100 studies with no evidence for elevated cancer risk or other harmful effects on human health[3]. But what about the chlorine that replaces parts of the sugar molecule in sucralose? Although the trivial amount of chlorine in sucralose might be alarming to some, keep in mind that chlorine is actually an essential element for life processes and its role as an electrolyte to regulate pH in the human body is well-documented. Chlorine is found in many things we eat and drink such as table salt, water and many foods in their natural state[4]. So given this information, the chlorine in sucralose is nothing to worry about from a health standpoint according to the research available. Lastly, if you're pregnant or breastfeeding the American Pregnancy Association recommends using sucralose in moderation, but this is due to basic nutritional concerns since sucralose is a nonnutritive sweetener [5].

What Are The Benefits of Sucralose?

      Sucralose certainly has some benefits to be aware of, especially if you have diabetes, pre-diabetes or just want to reduce your sugar intake. Since sucralose is mostly indigestible, it cannot be largely metabolized and therefore doesn't raise blood glucose levels, or affect blood glucose control during short-term or long-term usage [6]. By itself, sucralose is sugar free and calorie free, and it's on the recommended list of safe alternatives to table sugar by the American Diabetes Association. The last benefit to be aware of is the fact that sucralose doesn't promote tooth decay even though it's a derivative of natural sugar.



References

1. "Low-Calorie Sweeteners: What's News, What's New". American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Spectrum (Journal).
(http://journal.diabetes.org/diabetesspectrum/99v12n4/pg250.asp)

2. Market observations, personal experience and communications with various commercial sucralose-based product manufacturers. 2010 - 2017.

3. "Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer". National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.
(http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/artificial-sweeteners)

4. "The Role of Elements in Life Processes". The Mineral Information Institute.
(http://www.mii.org/periodic/LifeElement.html)

5. "Artificial Sweeteners and Pregnancy". 2015.
(http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/artificial-sweeteners-and-pregnancy/)

6. "Gestational Diabetes and Low-Calorie Sweeteners: Answers to Common Questions". foodinsight.org.
(http://www.foodinsight.org/Content/6/gestationaldiabetes.pdf)



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