When it comes to desserts, pastries, and all the sugary goodness, it can be hard to resist your sweet tooth.
That’s why most people turn to artificial sweeteners to lessen the health risks of too much sugar in their diet.
One of the most well-known sugar substitutes out there is the brand, Splenda.
This artificial sweetener is used on over a thousand products in the world, whether for baking or cooking.
Plus, Splenda also promises “no calories” without having to sacrifice sweetness, making it seem a wise alternative.
But is it?
Splenda Ingredients: What’s In It?
Splenda is made up of three primary ingredients:
The dextrose and maltodextrin are considered bulking components of Splenda. And compared to sucralose, these two ingredients are easily digestible by the body.
Sucralose, on the other hand, is not easily metabolized.
Although sucralose is responsible for making Splenda 600 times sweeter than ordinary sugar, it’s actually indigestible.
Sucralose is an artificial ingredient made by replacing hydrogen-oxygen groups with chlorine atoms in the normal sugar molecules.
After this process, we’re left with an unnatural molecule, providing no calories that the body can break down.
And yet, sucralose is still chosen as a primary ingredient because of its many “advantages.”
For one, it offers no aftertaste, unlike other sweeteners.
It’s also pretty stable when subjected to heat from baking and cooking.
Lastly, it can maintain its sweetness even when mixed with acids like lemon juice.
Splenda Dangers & Side Effects
Yes, Splenda has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use and consumption.
It is largely accepted as a sugar alternative despite having no nutritional value.
However, further studies show that using Splenda for long periods of time, especially in large amounts, can lead to potential side effects:
- Gas and bloating
- Problems with liver and kidney health
- Change in bacteria found in your gut
- Allergic reactions
- Weight gain
- Abdominal pain
- Seizures and dizziness
- Increase in blood sugar level
That’s just a quick overview.
Let’s dig into the real interesting tidbits…
Splenda and Cancer
Researchers caused quite a ruckus when they announced that using Splenda increases your risk for cancer.
However, later studies proved this finding to be faulty.
Former studies used rats to study the effects of sucralose and later found that they developed cancer cells upon the continuous dosage of the substance.
But there’s an error in the study’s setup because the amount of sucralose consumed by the rats was not equivalent to human consumption.
More than that, recent evidence proves that the components of Splenda do not have carcinogenic potential.
Even though this sugar substitute is consumed in high doses, cancer would not be one of its dangers.
As of today, we can cross out Splenda as one of the cancer-causing products.
However, studies are continuously being done to analyze this dilemma, and I would NOT be surprised if it was later proved true.
After all, bad things happen in the body when we try to pass off foreign substances as “food.”
Sucralose Effects on Gut Bacteria
Research conducted on animals in 2018 showed that products containing sucralose can cause damage to the activity of your gut bacteria.
The animals were found to have unbalanced enzyme levels, problems with nutrient absorption, and high levels of acid.
Overall, the good bacteria in their gut also decreased by a WHOPPING 50%.
The effects that occurred in the animals are also parallel to what humans can suffer after just a few packets of Splenda.
After this study, researchers concluded that sucralose in artificial sugar can have a stressful and toxic effect on the human body.
The components of synthetic sweeteners like Splenda make it hard for beneficial gut microbes to reproduce. If the microbiome is impaired, the body will have problems processing carbohydrates and sugar.
And once that domino tips, many others will fall as a result.
Sucralose and Diarrhea
Since the sucralose in Splenda is not metabolized, it can create problems in the stomach such as bloating and diarrhea.
Plus, synthetic sweeteners can act like laxatives, so digesting huge amounts can cause bowel problems.
More specifically, there are 3 possible reasons why Splenda can cause diarrhea:
- First, it may be due to the disrupted microbiome in your gut. Due to the reduced number of healthy bacteria, negative side effects can cause problems in the stomach.
- Second, Splenda’s components have been found to potentially cause intestinal inflammation, which triggers diarrhea.
- Third, when other ingredients like sugar alcohols are mixed with Splenda, they can cause complications like diarrhea and bloat.
Reports of Abdominal Pain
When artificial sugars like Splenda came out, they were deemed safe for consumption since the sweeteners merely pass through the body.
It was formerly believed to have no biological effect because Splenda’s components are not broken down in the body.
However, upon recent studies, it’s been revealed that the sucralose in Splenda can accumulate in your fat cells.
As such, current wellness advocacy groups demand that Splenda come with warning labels for the danger it can pose on the body.
On top of that, the chemicals in this synthetic sweetener can increase levels of acid in your intestines, which of course, could result in pain.
Interestingly enough, Splenda has been shown to worsen cases of Crohn’s disease, which is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that can lead to bloody stools, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
In a study conducted by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, researchers found that 15% of Splenda consumers felt their symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease grew worse.
Reports of Splenda Causing Headaches
Scientists are still split on the decision whether there is a direct link between artificial sweeteners and headaches.
In a case study from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, there are reports from Splenda users about experiencing migraines after consuming it.
This gives cause for scientists to believe that sucralose can potentially trigger headaches.
Reports from Splenda users have also stated that they have been experiencing consistent migraine attacks ever since they started using Splenda.
Furthermore, their headaches related to menstruation were also aggravated. However, when they stopped using it, their headaches stopped.
Current studies made by the International Headache Society claim that the cases differ depending on the person (obviously).
They stand firm on their claim that there isn’t enough evidence to prove if the sucralose in Splenda can cause migraines.
Splenda and Weight Gain
Splenda promises to be a sugar alternative that can help with weight loss management.
However, studies have shown that instead of helping you lose those extra pounds, Splenda ends up making you gain even more.
One reason is because they contain no calories, so your brain doesn’t feel satisfied after consuming them. As a result, your appetite increases and you’re inclined to eat more sugary treats.
Although deemed as a healthier alternative, artificial sweeteners show no significant sign in reducing the weight of consumers.
Instead, they can create further complications within your digestive system simply because they can lead to metabolic dysfunction, which often leads to increased fat production and storage.
How Does Splenda Affect Blood Sugar?
The main point of synthetic sweeteners like Splenda is that they should help you cut back on sugar.
But, the surprising fact for many is that Splenda actually does the opposite of reducing your sugar intake!
In fact, through a string of reactions, the sucralose in Splenda can cause your insulin and blood sugar levels to increase.
The effects of Splenda also worsen if your other food choices aren’t healthy and controlled.
The negative consequences hit harder especially for people who are obese.
When you consume these artificial sugars, your body reacts to the sweet taste by releasing hormones like insulin.
But since Splenda does not have the calories than normal sugar has, your body is not completely satisfied.
As a result, Splenda can negatively influence your metabolism.
Is Splenda Worse than Sugar?
So far, we know that artificial sugars like Splenda are a lot sweeter than ordinary sugar.
The misconception here is that consuming something very sweet can make you crave less of those sugary treats.
But the truth is, artificial sweeteners make you want more sweet products.
The reason behind this is that synthetic sugars interfere with the brain signals that tell you you’re full. A
s a result, you tend to overeat without realizing that you’ve already had too much.
So in that regard, Splenda can pose more of a threat than ordinary sugar…though I’m not at all giving table sugar a free pass.
It can still be toxic.
I’m just saying sweeteners like Splenda aren’t the “heroes” they’ve been made out to be.
Is Sucralose as Bad for You as Aspartame?
Aspartame is another type of artificial sugar that also promises fewer calories while giving a sweeter taste than normal sugar.
More commonly recognized as Equal and NutraSweet, this sweetener is found in diet sodas, sugar-free cereals, and sports drinks.
Just like sucralose, aspartame is also approved by scientists as “safe” for human consumption.
However, both aspartame and sucralose have since been found to have negative side effects on human health.
Aspartame, in particular, was found to be dangerous for patients who have schizophrenia and Tardive dyskinesia. This fake sugar is also linked to seizures, headaches, dizziness, and weight gain.
In the worst cases, it can even lead to developing cancer or birth defects.
Comparing it to sucralose, aspartame poses the same amount of risk to your health, possibly even more, which we’ll dig into in separate post.
Bottom line…I recommend avoiding both.
Sucralose vs Stevia
Sucralose is one of the primary ingredients of Splenda. It’s mainly marketed to people who have diabetes and want to manage their weight.
It comes in the form of granules or tablets and tastes 600 times sweeter than ordinary sugar.
On the other hand, we have Stevia.
Stevia is another well-known sugar substitute that contains no calories, making it suitable for diabetic and weight-conscious people.
As for taste, it’s around 200 times sweeter than ordinary sugar.
Stevia is made from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana. It can come in the form of liquid concentrate, white powder, or leaves.
If we compare these two, stevia is by far the safer choice over sucralose as stevia is less likely to produce negative effects within your body.
With stevia, your post-meal glucose levels tend to be more stable, unlike when you consume sucralose. Instead, stevia has actually been studies as a way to help maintain steady blood sugar levels while reducing your risk of diabetes and cancer.
Warning: Don’t Bake with Splenda!
Despite being used for baking and cooking, Splenda isn’t entirely stable when subjected to high temperatures.
It may be branded as heat-resistant, but when sucralose is heated to high temps, it breaks down and generated toxic compounds called chloropropanols.
When baked, artificial sweeteners go through thermal degradation, making them less stable and increasing their pH level. As a result, these substances can cause tumors and cancers to form over time.
Due to such risk, I never bake or cook with Splenda or other artificial sweeteners.
If for some reason you absolutely have to, at least bake at a temperature less than 250° F to lessen its damaging effects.
Bottom Line: Is Splenda Safe?
While several studies have identified health risks associated with Splenda, the answer to whether or not it is safe isn’t so simple.
The best answer would probably be depending on you and how your body reacts to using Splenda.
If you pair it with a healthy lifestyle, this artificial sugar may be safe enough to be used in moderation.
However, if the Splenda you consume was used in baking or high-heat cooking, then it may be problematic.
If, like me, you’d rather avoid “fake food” altogether, try other alternatives for sugar like stevia.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is sucralose bad for pregnancy?
Studies say no. They show no harmful effects on women who are pregnant or lactating. They also say there’s no need to worry about it tainting breast milk since the amount of sucralose actually absorbed is low.
With that said, I wouldn’t use while pregnant for all the reasons discussed above.
Can Splenda cause heartburn?
Yes. Splenda can disrupt the production of good bacteria in your gut and allow bad bacteria to proliferate. As a result, your gut lining can be inflamed, which can cause or worsen cases of heartburn.
Does sucralose cause cancer?
There is no sufficient research to determine whether or not sucralose can cause cancer. Most recent findings indicate that it is not directly linked to cancer. However, other findings argue that putting sucralose in high heat can put you at risk for it.
Does Splenda cause bloating?
Yes. One of the possible side effects of Splenda is feeling bloated. This effect may be the result of how it influences your metabolism and digestive process.