Is Splenda really that bad for you?

Sucralose (brandname: Splenda) is one of the five nonnutritive (providing no nutrition) sweeteners that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The other four nonnutritive sweeteners are acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, and saccharin.  All diet drinks and foods have one of these sweeteners or a combination thereof.

The Controversy

Because much of the testing is done in animals and not humans, it is difficult for many people to feel assured that sugar substitutes, such as Splenda, are truly safe… However, the amounts that could possibly be consumed by humans (even if you ate Splenda all day long) are so much less than that given to animals.

In addition, with Splenda we know from metabolic studies that most if not all of the Splenda consumed is excreted in either the feces or urine in close time proximity to when it was consumed. This is a very good indication that Splenda does not undergo any chemical reactions in the body and nor does it spend that long of a period of time in the body.

Should You Avoid?

For the most part, individuals should avoid daily use of sugar free stuff and sugar free products that offer little to no nutritional value in the diet. This is because these foods may displace nutrient dense foods in the diet and result in inadequate intakes of nutrients and certain food components.

Remember: artificial sweeteners are NOT food; they are still chemicals!  They are considered “nonnutritive,” namely because they do not nourish your body in any way.

If I NEED a Diet Soda, How Much is Acceptable?

The position of the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Dental Association and American Dietetic Association is that splenda and the other four sweeteners are safe when consumed within the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). Tanya Zuckerbrot, Dietitian and founder of Skinny in the City, nicely summarized the ADI on common sweeteners.  The following is her analysis:

Saccharin
Found in: Sweet ‘n Low, Necta Sweet, some candies
Calories: 0
Strength: 200-700 times sweeter than sugar
Controversy: Back in the 70s this sweetener caused a scare due to bladder tumors found in rats who ingested it. Subsequently though, multiple studies found the tumors did not translate to humans, and saccharin is approved by the FDA.
Uses: Best in coffee and tea
Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI): 5mg/kg* of body weight, or about 9-12 packets per day

Aspartame
Found in: More than 6,000 products, including NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin, some diet beverages, gum, and puddings
Calories: 0
Strength: 160-220 times sweeter than sugar
Controversy: Approved in 1981 by the FDA, the sweetener’s safety was called into question by a 1996 report that suggested an increase in the number of people with brain tumors between 1975 and 1992 might correlate with the introduction and use of this sweetener in the United States. Eventually this was proven to be false. (If you have a condition called phenylketonuria, commonly known as PKU, do not use this product as it contains phenylalanine.)
Uses: Best for sweetening coffee, tea, gum, soft drinks
ADI: The FDA set an ADI at 50 mg/kg of body weight, or about 18-19 12-ounce sodas daily. One 12-ounce soda contains about 225 mg of aspartame; 1 packet of Equal contains 22 mg.

Splenda
Found in: Sucralose, baked goods, beverages, chewing gum, frozen desserts
Calories: 0
Strength: Splenda can be 320-1000 times sweeter than sugar depending on its application.
Controversy: None. Before approval, the FDA reviewed more than 100 safety studies, including studies to assess cancer risk. The results of these studies showed no evidence that Splenda, made from altered sugar molecules, causes cancer or poses any other threat to human health. Some studies suggest that ingesting too much Splenda may increase sugar cravings.
Uses: Splenda works well for baking, since it doesn’t degrade when exposed to heat. You can also sweeten drinks, like coffee and tea, with it.
ADI: 5 mg/kg a day, 6 cans of diet soda

Splenda with Fiber
This is exactly what it sounds like: Each packet of Splenda with Fiber contains one gram of fiber. If you’re like most Americans, you’re only getting half the fiber you need. The recommended daily intake for fiber is 25-38 grams. If you’re a Splenda fan, switch to the fiber version — the only NNS with this on the market — and watch the grams add up.

Purevia
Found in: Tabletop sweetener, beverages by Pepsico like Sobe Life, and Trop50. It’s made from a high purity extract called Reb A, which is the sweetest component of the stevia plant. It contains no artificial flavorings or preservatives, which makes it 100% natural.
Calories: 0 calories, 2 grams of carbohydrate per packet
Strength: 200 times sweeter than sugar
Word of warning: It has been deemed safe by the FDA but only in limited applications.
Best uses: Sweetening fruit, yogurt, cereal, coffee and tea
ADI: 4 mg/kg a day, 30 packets (for a person weighing 68 kg)

*To find your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2

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