What is Sucralose?
Learn about the risks associated with Sucralose (Splenda) and if it is safe to use as a sugar substitute.
Sucralose is a sugar substitute and artificial sweetener. It is not broken down by the body, which makes it non-caloric. Compared to other artificial sweeteners, its taste makes it one of the most popular and most used on the market. It can be anywhere from 400-700 times sweeter than sugar and doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste.
Sucralose is the primary ingredient in many popular artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, SucraPlus, Zerocal, Sukrana, and Nevella.
Sucralose (Splenda) Nutrition Facts
Splenda contains carbohydrates, dextrose, and maltodextrin. Nutritional info includes the following:
Serving Size 1 packet: (1g)
Servings Per Container: 700
|% Daily Value|
|Total Fat 0g 0%|
|Sodium 0 mg 0%|
|Total Carb. Less than 1 g 0%|
|Sugars Less than 1 g|
|Protein 0g 0%|
Each serving contains 1 gram of dietary fiber and does not obtain calories from saturated fat, vitamin A, vitamin C calcium, or iron. Some brands may contain small amounts of potassium as well.
Is Sucralose Safe?
The FDA approved sucralose in 1998 and expanded its approval for all foods in 1999. It is considered safe for human consumption, and is used in the following foods:
- Frozen desserts
- Chewing gum
- Many diet foods
However, there have been independent studies suggesting it may not be as safe as once believed.
Safety downgrade. In 2016, The Center for Science in the Public Interest downgraded its safety rating of sucrose from “caution” to “avoid.” The downgrade was put into effect after the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health released a study claiming sucralose induced hematopoietic neoplasias (tumors affecting the bone marrow, lymph, and lymphatic system) in male mice.1
Sucralose: Good or Bad?
Studies on sucralose indicate it may be more harmful than many realize:
Potential Toxicity. Studies on mice found that sucralose induced DNA damage in their gastrointestinal tract. Three separate studies also found that heating sucralose with the naturally occurring chemical glycerol generated a “potentially toxic class of compounds.”2
Here’s a side by side comparison of sucralose versus other sweeteners:
Sucralose vs. Sugar
Also known as Splenda, Sucralose is made from sugar. Sucralose can be up to 700 times sweeter than sugar. Sucralose passes through the body and doesn’t get stored in body fat. On average, sucralose won’t have an impact on insulin or blood sugar levels like regular sugar. It is often used as a sugar substitute in baking and cooking.
Sucralose vs. Sucrose
Sucrose is also known as beet, cane, or maple sugar. Sucrose contains 16 calories per teaspoon and has been linked to issues with obesity and tooth decay. Many people with diabetes opt to consume sucralose instead of sucrose due to its minimal impact on blood sugar levels.
Sucralose vs. Aspartame
Aspartame comes from the amino acids aspartic and phenylalanine, while sucralose is a derivative of sugar. Aspartame is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar and has four calories per gram, and was approved by the FDA in 1981. Products that might contain aspartame include diet soda, sugar-free ice cream, gum, yogurt, and sugarless candies. Research is still ongoing, but some studies have linked aspartame to glucose intolerance in obese individuals.3
Sucralose vs. Xylitol
Xylitol is a natural sugar that comes from fruits and vegetables, but the majority is extracted from corn cobs. It has a similar sweetness to sugar, but has fewer calories, and has been known to cause gastrointestinal problems if consuming 100 grams or more. Unlike sucralose, xylitol could raise blood sugar slightly when consumed.
Sucralose vs. Stevia
Stevia is a calorie-free sweetener that comes from the leaves of the stevia plant. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar and comes in liquid or powder form. Even though the USDA lists stevia as “generally recognized as safe,” the FDA has not approved the use of stevia crude extract and whole leaf stevia in food.4
Potential Sucralose Side Effects
Even though sucralose is considered “safe” by the FDA, it’s essential to know any potential side effects and impact it can have on a person’s health.
Sucralose & Diabetes
Researchers studying the effects sucralose may have on insulin and diabetes have made the following discoveries:
Studies suggest a single dose of sucralose in normal-weight adults did not have an impact on hormonal or glycemic response to the ingestion of glucose or other carbs. However, researchers did note that “regular consumption of sucralose leads to insulin resistance in healthy individuals.”5
Sucralose & Obesity
Research on determining a link between sucralose and obesity are ongoing, but preliminary findings indicate the sweetener ”might potentially affect appetite regulation by providing an inaccurate signal regarding the actual levels of extracellular glucose in the brain”.6
However, when it comes to artificial sweeteners in general, studies suggest a potential link between weight gain and consumption of these products.6
Sucralose & Keto
Ketosis occurs when the body has an insufficient level of carbs to burn for energy. To compensate for carbs, the body makes ketones and burns stored body fat for energy, which is called ketosis. This is a popular way for those who intermittent fast to lose weight and obtain other health benefits.
To stay in ketosis, carbohydrate consumption must be kept to a minimum: anything that can increase blood sugars or insulin levels will take a person out of ketosis. Sucralose does not contain any carbs or calories, but some products that contain sucralose (such as Splenda) may have other sugars in them, which could slightly elevate blood sugar levels. As a result, consuming those products could potentially take a person out of ketosis. This makes reading labels for products containing sucralose key.
Sucralose & Cancer
Many studies have been performed to determine if artificial sweeteners as well can cause cancer.
Studies explicitly conducted on sucralose have not found a link between this artificial sweetener and cancer. As a result, it has been called noncarcinogenic.7 While the previously used artificial sweetener saccharin was banned in 1981 because it was believed to cause bladder cancer in rats, there is little evidence linking today’s artificial sweeteners to cancer.
However, it should be noted that many foods containing artificial sweeteners (such as desserts) have little nutritional value and could cause obesity if eaten in excess. These two dietary factors have been linked to an increased risk of cancer in humans.
In an effort to decrease sugar intake, many have turned to artificial sweeteners such as sucralose as an alternative. While the product has no calories and is considered non-carcinogenic, potential health risks may still be involved. For example, many foods that contain sucralose, desserts, chewing gum, diet foods, etc. may have little nutritional value. In addition, eating these foods in excess may lead to excess weight gain, which could increase a person’s cancer risk. While sucralose doesn’t elevate insulin levels like sugar, simply avoiding artificial sweeteners and foods that contain them, in general, is the healthiest option of all.
- Soffritti M.,Padovani M.,Tibaldi E. (Et al). Sucralose Administered In Feed, Beginning Prenatally Through Lifespan, Induces Hematopoietic Neoplasias In Male Swiss Mice. Published online: 29 Jan 2016 https://doi.org/10.1080/10773525.2015.1106075 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10773525.2015.1106075?journalCode=yjoh20
- Schiffman SS, Rother KI. Sucralose, A Synthetic Organochlorine Sweetener: Overview Of Biological Issues. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2013;16(7):399-451. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2013.842523. [PMID: 24219506]; PMCID: PMC3856475. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3856475/
- Jennifer L Kuk 1 1, Ruth E Brown. Aspartame Intake Is Associated With Greater Glucose Intolerance in Individuals With Obesity. [PMID: 27216413] DOI: 10.1139/apnm-2015-0675 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27216413-aspartame-intake-is-associated-with-greater-glucose-intolerance-in-individuals-with-obesity/
- Has Stevia Been Approved By FDA To Be Used As A Sweetener? https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/fda-basics/has-stevia-been-approved-fda-be-used-sweetener
- M Yanina Pepino. The Not-So-Sweet Effects Of Sucralose On Blood Sugar Control. The not-so-sweet effects of sucralose on blood sugar control https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/108/3/431/5095502
- Susan S. Schiffman & Kristina I. Rother. Sucralose, A Synthetic Organochlorine Sweetener: Overview Of Biological Issues. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B. Pages 399-451 | Published online: 12 Nov 2013 https://doi.org/10.1080/10937404.2013.842523. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10937404.2013.842523
- Berry C, Brusick D, Cohen SM, (Et al). Sucralose Non-Carcinogenicity: A Review of the Scientific and Regulatory Rationale. Nutr Cancer. 2016 Nov-Dec;68(8):1247-1261. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2016.1224366. Epub 2016 Sep 21. [PMID: 27652616]; PMCID: PMC5152540.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5152540/