Is Sucralose (Splenda) Safe to Consume?

Woman pouring sugar into iced coffee


Sucralose and Splenda are the same things—an artificial sweetener that can be used as a sugar substitute. Splenda is the brand name version of sucralose products sold by McNeill Nutritionals. But you'll also see generic sucralose at most grocery stores.

Additionally, sucralose is in some brands of diet sodas, yogurt, and breakfast cereal. Individually sized yellow sucralose packets are found in most restaurants and coffee shops. And, because both Splenda and generic sucralose are heat stable, they can be used for baking and cooking at home.

What Is Sucralose?

Sucralose is made from regular white table sugar, which biochemically is known as sucrose. During the manufacturing process, three hydrogen-oxygen groups are replaced with chlorine atoms on every sucrose molecule. The resulting product is about 600 times sweeter than sugar, so only a tiny amount is needed to sweeten foods and beverages.

The addition of the chlorine also means your body doesn't recognize it as sugar, so the molecules aren't broken down. Almost all of the sucralose you consume passes through your digestive system without being absorbed, which makes it calorie-free.

Sucralose Safety 

Sucralose has been used safely as an artificial sweetener for over 20 years. Canada was the first country to approve it for use in foods and beverages. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved sucralose in 1998 after reviewing 110 scientific studies. It was approved for use by everyone, including people who are pregnant and children.

Twenty years of follow-up research have shown sucralose to be safe for humans to consume and there don't appear to be any problems with short-term or long-term use. Sucralose doesn't seem to interact with other foods or medications.

Occasionally, people express concern about the addition of chlorine because it's found in bleach. But chlorine (as chloride) is also found in table salt, lettuce, and mushrooms. And since sucralose isn't digested, the chlorine isn't released into the body anyway.

Adverse Reactions

There are a few anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to sucralose, and some dubious websites claim sucralose ingestion causes several illnesses, including thymus damage. That claim is based on one laboratory study in which young rats with low-calorie laboratory diets were fed sucralose and suffered from shrinking thymus glands (the thymus gland is essential for immune system function).

But that's a typical response that rats have when they're under stress due to weight loss, no matter what caused the weight loss, and it isn't particular to sucralose consumption. Just to be sure, follow-up studies were performed and no evidence of immune system dysfunction was found.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Aldeeb OA, Mahgoub H, Foda NH. Sucralose. Profiles Drug Subst Excip Relat Methodol. 2013;38:423-62. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-407691-4.00010-1

  2. Sucralose. About sucralose.

  3. Fitch C, Keim KS, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;May;112(5):739-58. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.03.009

  4. Grotz VL, Munro IC. An overview of the safety of sucralose. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2009;55(1):1-5. doi:10.1016/j.yrtph.2009.05.011

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.