The Potential Dangers Of Artificial Sweeteners, Myths Of Natural Sweeteners, and Your Best Option If You Have To Sweeten It Up!
Sweetness plays an insidious role in our health. We are primed to seek it out, but we are primed from times when sugar was rare and only found packaged within foods which contain many more nutrients in addition to the sugar. It is too easy to find today, and has displaced healthy foods and even the fruits we originally found sugar in.
To counter the caloric load excess sweeteners place upon our body, scientists have discovered and marketed many artificial sweeteners. These substances taste sweet on the tongue, but provide no calories, making them seem like an ideal choice to replace sugar in many beverages and foods. While they may provide no calories, there is a lot of controversy over whether they are actually good for you, or just plain bad.
There are four common artificial sweeteners found today. Sucralose is the artificial sweetener found in Splenda. Equal and Nutrasweet are trade names for aspartame. Saccharin is not found often in food and drink anymore, but can be found in packs of SweetN’ Low. Sports drinks and protein powders often contain acesulfame potassium, often shortened to acesulfame-K. All of these sweeteners have been known to cause side effects in certain people, and most have been linked to some form of toxicity as well. None of them should be classified as “healthy”.
The artificial sweetener getting the most attention today is Splenda, containing sucralose. Sucralose has been billed as a new generation artificial sweetener, and it desperately wants to avoid the same sort of controversy which surrounds aspartame and saccharin.
Splenda’s manufacturer claims that Splenda has no side effects, no toxicity, no danger at all, and that it can be used effectively to lose weight. They also compare Splenda to sugar, stating that the process for making sucralose begins with real sugar, which implies that Splenda has a certain kind of wholesomeness. The question is, are any of these claims really true?
Is Splenda (Sucralose) Really Natural? Not Really…
To be fair, the manufacturer of Splenda is quick to point out that they never claim that it is natural. Nonetheless, they state that the process “starts with sugar and converts it to a no-calorie, non-carbohydrate sweetener.”
The implication, despite no claims that it is natural, is that they’ve made an improvement upon a product which is natural, so we should not worry. The process sucrose goes through to become sucralose involves replacing replacing certain parts of the sugar molecule (three hydroxyl groups) with chlorine atoms, but it is not the process or even the chlorine which is circumspect.
In reality, mentioning sugar serves no purpose beyond marketing. Sucrose and sucralose have completely different molecular formulas (C12H22O11 [sucrose] vs. C12H19Cl3O8 [sucralose]), and are processed in our body in completely different ways. Table sugar, in the form of sucrose (a disaccharide formed of glucose and fructose) is safe, at least so far as general toxicity goes, and is recognized by the enzymes in our body.
Sucralose has a short history, conflicting evidence regarding its toxicity, and is not broken down by enzymes, meaning that whether it is absorbed through our intestine or excreted, it will likely be done so intact.