Is Sucralose (Splenda) Safe to Consume?

Woman pouring sugar into iced coffee


Sucralose and Splenda are the same things—an artificial sweetener and 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 found 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, so the chlorine doesn't break off. Almost all of the sucralose you consume passes through your digestive system without being absorbed, hence the reason it's literally 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 United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved sucralose in 1998 after reviewing 110 scientific studies. It was approved for use by everyone including pregnant women 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, someone will express concern about the addition of chlorine because it's found in bleach. But, don't let the chlorine scare you. Chlorine (as chloride) is also found in table salt, lettuce, and mushrooms. Not that it matters, since sucralose isn't digested, the chlorine isn't released into your system.

Adverse Reactions

There are a few anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to sucralose and some very 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 here's the thing—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.

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