In my work as a sugar-free expert, I routinely taste, review and recommend a wide variety of sugar-free products. The no-calorie sweetener called Splenda (generic name is sucralose) gets a no apology one-thumb up review from me. I personally use Splenda every day of my life, and I’m not sick or dead yet. Note that I have not been asked or paid by McNeill Nutritionals, the product manufacturer, to make this review.
Splenda was introduced into our food supply in 1998 when it was approved by the FDA. Since then it’s been approved by 100 other countries, and has become the most popular non-caloric sweetener in the world. Hundreds of millions of people use this product. During it’s short history, which is less than 20 years, there have been no deaths, diseases or illnesses directly attributable to sucralose. Surely something major would have revealed itself by now. Critics say we need more time for long-term health problems to emerge, and that may be true. That said, so far so good. My biggest reason for recommending Splenda is that our government says it’s safe, and the product has demonstrated safety with a huge worldwide population group.
The biggest objection to Splenda and many no or low-calorie sweetening agents is that they’re man-made chemical substances. This is a fair objection. We all know that man-made substances never end up being good for us, and this is why I only give the product a one thumb up recommendation instead of two. Splenda is made from sugar, but it’s a stretch to call it a natural product. Sugar molecules are removed, chlorinated and put back to make sucralose, which is 600 times sweeter than sugar. The chlorination process is similar to that used to make table salt.
Because Splenda/sucralose is so sweet, only a tiny amount is needed to replicate the taste of sugar. The second reason I like and recommend this product is because a very small portion of the chemically-produced sweetening agent is consumed on a per serving basis. Most of what you see when you open a container of Splenda is a filler called maltodextrin. We know for sure that maltodextrin is the dominant ingredient in the product because it’s listed as the first ingredient on the ingredients list. Maltodextrin is made from a vegetable root, typically chicory and is harmless.
The third reason I like Splenda/sucralose is ease. It’s very convenient and very easy to find to find either Splenda or less expensive store brands of sucralose on every grocery store shelf. This means I don’t have to root around on the internet for a hard-to-find product or make a special trip to the health food store and pay a premium for it. Even more, Splenda/sucralose looks like sugar, measures like sugar and most importantly, it can be used in cooking. Some no or low-calorie sweetening agents cannot be used with heat because the sweetening properties don’t hold up. This is not the case with Splenda.
And don’t forget taste. My fourth reason for recommending Splenda is because it very closely resembles the taste of sugar. That means I don’t have to adapt to a new flavor or to a less sweet taste. Sugar alcohols, for example, are about 50% to 60% as sweet as sugar, which means you either have to use more of them or adapt. Sugar alcohols are recognizable because they always end in “ol,” and include substances like sorbitol, xylitol and erythritol.
The fifth reason I like Splenda is because there are less empirically-reported side effects. Aspartame, which used to be the most popular artificial sweetener in the world, is the big winner for complaints. It’s alleged to cause headaches, migraines and other neurological problems. Sugar alcohols, mentioned above, can cause intestinal distress like bloating, cramping, farting and the runs. Yes, of course, there are complaints about Splenda/sucralose, but they’re not at the same high pitch or volume. Most of the complainers are from health food experts, and we already recognized up front that Splenda is a chemical substance.
The sixth reason for liking and recommending Splenda is because it offers a smarter and healthier alternative to caloric sweeteners like sugars and syrups. Just last month The New York Times published an article reporting a strong statistical correlation between the consumption of sugars and 4 health risks: type 2 diabetes, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, an increase in body weight, and an increase in body fat. There are no statistical correlation between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and these same health risks. This finally dispels all the false myths about artificial sweeteners and puts the blame for health problems right where it belongs — on excessive sugar and syrup consumption.
And lastly, the seventh reason for liking and recommending Splenda is because it doesn’t trigger binge eating. Out-of-control eating is triggered by caloric sweeteners of every kind. This serious and depressing problem affects anywhere from 20% to 40% of the dieting population. Because Splenda/sucralose is a different chemical than sugar, it reacts differently in the body and utilizes different chemical pathways. In fact, it’s not metabolized at all and 85% of it is excreted. This means that sanity with food can be maintained while still enjoying a bit of sweetness.
Is Splenda/sucralose for everyone? No, it’s not. Specifically, there are three population groups that should avoid any type of no or low caloric sweetener. This includes pregnant women, young children, and anyone who’s struggling with a serious disease like cancer. For everyone else, consider putting a reasonable quantity boundary on your Splenda/sucralose consumption. The ideal daily target is 1 tablespoon (which is 3 teaspoons) up to a maximum of 2 tablespoons (which is 6 teaspoons).