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Is Sucralose Bad For You? (Plus Find out Where It’s Hidden)

It’s a familiar dilemma: You want to keep your beverages sweet without piling on the sugar and calories, so you turn to a zero-calorie sweetener. Enter: Sucralose. This sweetener seems like the perfect alternative, but it comes with a downside…

 

Invented in a lab, sucralose has the potential to wreak havoc on your gut biome and disrupt your health in a variety of ways. The worst part? It can be hidden in plain sight, snuck into food and beverages you’d never suspect.

 

Here’s why sucralose can be a problem, and where this ingredient might be hiding…

What Is Sucralose?

Sucralose is an artificial sweetener known for having zero calories. It’s what the FDA calls a “high-intensity sweetener” (1). This is an appropriate title since sucralose is 400 to 700 times sweeter than sugar (2, 3).

 

Although sucralose is approved by the FDA, concerns remain regarding its overall safety (4).

 

Sucralose was created in a lab in 1976. And nearly two decades later, in 1999, Splenda (the most popular sucralose product) hit grocery store shelves in the US. As of 2014, Splenda is a $226 million dollar industry (5).

Hand holding a packet of Splenda artificial sweetener. Isolated on white background.

While sucralose itself is calorie-free, Splenda has 3 calories per gram. It’s regularly used as a low-cal sugar substitute in coffee, food products, and even baked goods. (If you bake with Splenda, you might want to stop—more on that below.)

The Long-Term Side Effects of Sucralose

Is sucralose bad for you? The answer is complicated. Some studies point to potential side effects that could be caused by sucralose. While more research is needed to get full clarity, the truth is that we don’t know much about the long-term health impact of sucralose. Here are some potential concerns…

1. Sucralose May Raise Cancer Risk if Used in Baking

Splenda is thought to be heat resistant, and because of this, it’s been marketed as a sugar substitute for cooking and baking. But not so fast—studies have found that baking with Splenda may raise one’s risk of cancer.

 

When Splenda is baked at high temps, it begins to break down and have interactions with other ingredients (6). According to a 2009 study, when sucralose interacts with a compound in fat molecules called glycerol, it creates dangerous substances called chloropropanols. Chloropropanols may increase the risk of cancer (7). Because of this, you’ll want to avoid using Splenda when baking anything at 350°F (175°C) or higher (8).

2. Sucralose is a Risk to Your Gut Health

Your gut is directly connected to so many aspects of your health, spanning from your immune system to your digestion to mental health and more (9, 10, 11). Early research suggests that sucralose could potentially disrupt all that. A 2008 study on rats found that sucralose decreased the levels of several types of good bacteria in the gut (12).

3. Sucralose May Elevate Your Blood Sugar

If you’re new to artificial sweeteners, regularly consuming them for the first time could have a negative impact on your blood sugar. Current research is showing that regular consumption of sucralose doesn’t result in a change in blood sugar (13, 14). Whereas those who did not regularly consume sucralose found that the ingredient elevated their blood sugar levels by 14%, and sent insulin levels soaring by 20% (14).

4. Sucralose Combined With Carbs May Lower Your Energy Levels

Mixing artificial sweeteners with carbohydrates (think french fries or potato chips) can rapidly impair glucose metabolism—the thing that provides your cells with energy. So, if your glucose metabolism is thrown off, you may feel a lack of energy (15).

5. Sucralose Combined With Carbohydrates May Alter Insulin Sensitivity

Research is finding that when one consumes a low-calorie sweetener like sucralose with a carbohydrate, insulin sensitivity decreases (15). This is because the brain’s perception of sweetness has been altered, which is likely due to artificial sweeteners like Splenda being nearly 600 times sweeter than sugar. This creates an environment where that level of sweetness is “normal” to the body, so the body no longer responds normally by releasing insulin (a hormone that helps move sugar from your blood to your cells).

 

This results in insulin resistance—a condition in which glucose can’t be absorbed into your cells as easily, so it builds up in your blood instead. This is what eventually leads to type 2 diabetes.

Do Artificial Sweeteners Cause Weight Gain?

As of now, the research is unclear as to whether or not artificial sweeteners cause weight gain.

 

Some studies say they do (16, 17, 18, 19). Others say they don’t (20, 21, 22).


What we do know is that those who drink diet soda may end up eating more food calories than those who don’t consume diet soda (23).

Can of Diet Coke held against green garden background.

Products That Sucralose Can be Found in

Sucralose is found in several store-bought products, including:

  • Baked goods
  • BBQ sauce
  • Beverages
  • Coffee creamer
  • Chewing gum
  • Diet sodas
  • Flavored coffee syrups
  • Ice cream
  • Salad dressings
  • Sugar-free candy
  • Sugar-free or low-calorie condiments
  • Sugar-free jams and jellies
  • Sugar-free gelatin (like Jello)

 

To avoid sucralose in your food and beverages, be sure to check the item’s ingredient label before putting it in your grocery cart.

Healthy Alternatives to Use Instead

If you rely on Splenda or other sucralose-based sweeteners, it’s a good move to opt for a more natural alternative…

 

Coffee creamer is a great place to start. Rather than using a store-bought creamer filled with questionable ingredients, reach for a creamy, naturally-sweetened alternative like NativePath Collagen Creamer. This coffee creamer combines collagen powder with 5 grams of MCTs for a morning beverage that not only promotes bone, joint, hair, skin, and nail health but extra energy and mental clarity, too (24, 25, 26).

One of my favorite parts about this creamer is that it’s naturally sweetened with monk fruit and stevia. When it comes to choosing between sucralose vs stevia and monk fruit, the latter is the natural, plant-derived option—that doesn’t result in any negative side effects, either.

Other Artificial Sweeteners to Avoid

Sucralose is just one of many artificial sweeteners that regularly spark controversy over their impact on human health. One of the most famous is aspartame (which is 200 times sweeter than regular sugar (27)). When it comes to sucralose vs aspartame, the best answer is to choose neither.

 

While aspartame poses a risk for people with a hereditary disease called phenylketonuria (PKU), the sweetener is generally considered safe for many other people under certain conditions (28). But much like other artificial sweeteners, there’s a lot we don’t know about its long-term health effects.


Other artificial sweeteners to watch out for include saccharin, xylitol, neotame, and more.

The Bottom Line

If sucralose had a personality type, it would be categorized as sneaky. While it’s hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, it often goes undetected in your beverages and food, and its long-term health effects remain something of a mystery. To protect yourself from dangerous side effects, avoid baking with sucralose, don’t combine it with certain carbs at meals, and consider avoiding it altogether.

 

If you're looking for a healthier alternative to store-bought coffee creamer, reach for NativePath Collagen Creamer. Not only does it have a healthy dose of collagen and MCTs, it’s also naturally sweetened with monk fruit and stevia.

As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.

Sources

  1. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/additional-information-about-high-intensity-sweeteners-permitted-use-food-united-states#:~:text=Sucralose%20is%20a%20general%20purpose,sugar%20substitute%20in%20baked%20goods.
  2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2621.1992.tb14345.x/abstract
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11751465
  4. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/how-sweet-it-all-about-sugar-substitutes
  5. https://www.statista.com/statistics/328748/us-retail-sales-of-splenda-artificial-sweetener/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3856475/
  7. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814609005378
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4397539/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33086688/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31315227/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6469458/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18800291
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19221011
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23633524
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32130881/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27129676/
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18535548/
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26199070/
  19. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19151203/
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24932880/
  21. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24944060/
  22. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22093544/
  23. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/is-sucralose-splenda-bad-for-you/
  24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11071580/
  25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25636220/
  26. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12634436/
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8227014/
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7926728/

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Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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  • Kathleen M Bates

    Is your Collagen safe to give my dog? He is Shepherd/Husky, 10 yrs old 75 lbs and epileptic. Would this help him? I just received my 6 pack order and I am trying mine now and thought of my fur baby.
    ———
    NativePath replied:
    Hi Kathleen! I am sorry to hear your pup is experiencing these issues. Although collagen is generally considered safe for dogs, we do suggest checking with your vet just to be sure there will be no interactions with any meds he may be taking. Wishing all the best for you and your fur baby!