I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since I wrote about the 56 nicknames for sugar that food manufacturers use to hide the fact they’re adding insulin-spiking sweet stuff to processed food. In my health coaching and functional medicine practice, I educate my clients on how to look out for these hidden sources of sugar.
But now I have to add a sugar alternative to my list: sucralose. You probably know sucralose by the brand name Splenda, which comes in yellow packets. Sucralose is the most popular artificial sweetener in the U.S. Used in over 6,000 products, sucralose, many people believe, is healthier than real sugar because it’s calorie-free, so it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels.
Because sucralose is not broken down by the body, it passes through without any negative effects on insulin levels. And in certain populations, that may be true. Especially people who maintain a healthy weight and don’t have blood sugar issues.
A 2015 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that both aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal, Sugar Twin) and sucralose enhance the release of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1).
GLP-1 is a hormone produced in the gut that reduces appetite and triggers insulin release. That’s the good news about these twin calorie-free artificial sweeteners.
However, the study found that the effects did not occur in patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Not only that, in one study on patients with obesity, sucralose actually ELEVATED blood sugar levels.
Why Sucralose Is Bad For You: Damages DNA
A new research study reveals even more reasons to be concerned about using sucralose, the primary sweetener used in diet soda, sugar-free chewing gum and Atkins diet products. (It’s used in these products because it’s 600 times sweeter than regular sugar!)
In the May 29, 2023 edition of the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, a study shows that a compound in Splenda is toxic to human DNA and gut health. Moreover, the artificial sweetener may cause inflammation, oxidative stress and even cancer.
Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found sucralose-6-acetate, the chemical that forms when Splenda gets digested, is “genotoxic,” meaning it breaks up DNA, North Carolina-based news station WRAL reported.
Now if you’re thinking that this study was like previous research on aspartame that pumped rodents with the equivalent of gallons of soda, you’d be wrong!
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), consuming more than 0.15 micrograms per day of sucralose-6-acetate is of “toxicological concern.” So how much is in one Splenda-sweetened soft drink?
The researchers say it’s higher than the safe threshold established by the EFSA. And that amount is how much of the compound is naturally in the drink. That’s not even counting how much of the compound is produced in your gut after you consume sucralose!
So the amount of sucralose-6-acetate in a single serving of soda can be way higher than the upper limit recommended by health experts.
More Sucralose Side Effects
According to USRTW, just last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised people not to consume non-sugar sweeteners, including sucralose, for weight loss. The recommendation is based on a systematic review of the most current scientific evidence, which suggests that consumption of non-sugar sweeteners is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality, as well as increased body weight.
In addition, one research study concluded that sucralose caused leukemia in mice.
But wait … there’s more bad news about sucralose: research shows that artificial sweeteners can increase your motivation to eat. In other words, sucralose may actually boost your appetite instead of healthily satisfying your sweet tooth.
And if you need even more convincing to stop using sucralose, there’s data that suggests it may lead to liver inflammation, colon tumors, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and other problems.
Safer Sugar Alternatives
It’s important to note there were some limitations to the study. That doesn’t mean I’m giving you the green light to add 2 packets of the yellow stuff to your morning coffee. Nonetheless, the study was in-vitro, meaning it was tested on human blood cells and gut tissues.
But this wouldn’t be the first study that suggests sucralose causes leaky gut.
Despite the experiment’s limitations, the lead study author, adjunct professor, Susan Schiffman, said that sucralose should be avoided.
So which sweeteners do I recommend?
Try one of these:
- Monk fruit extract
- Stevia (without erythritol, which has been recently shown to cause blood clots)
- Yacon syrup
- Date syrup
I’ll cover these sweeteners in more detail in future blog posts. Stay tuned! Until then, if you need a guiding hand to reach your health goals, contact me for a complementary health consultation. Every journey starts with a first step!