Is Splenda Dangerous?

>> Mar 18, 2009

A new study recently published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health has the chairman of Citizens for health in the U.S. up in arms over a recent study and the FDA’s failure to revoke its approval of the artificial sweetener sucralose, marketed under the name “Splenda”.

**Note: This study was done on rats, which is NOT the same as humans. HOWEVER, when dealing with anything as new and abundant in our food supply as Splenda, it does raise a red flag.

Splenda's slogan is “Splenda tastes like sugar, because it’s made from sugar”. The company faced scrutiny for this slogan, as the product is actually mainly chemically derived. Sucralose is a high-potency sweetener, combined with maltodextrin and glucose (that’s the sugar part) as fillers to make Splenda. Splenda is approved for use in Canada and the U.S. and was originally thought to have no real side effects in the body, as the majority of it is not metabolized or absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. This is the premise of most sweeteners.

This new study looked at the effects of sucralose on gut bacteria (good bacteria) and pH balance. For 12 weeks researchers fed rats amounts of sucralose that were well within the FDA’s approved limit in the food supply, and found adverse effects. After 12 weeks, half of the rats were given 12 weeks of “recovery time”.

The results indicated that after only 12 weeks, the number of beneficial gut bacteria were reduced, gut pH was increased and expression of certain compounds in the body, which are known to reduce the absorption of some drugs and nutrients (P-glycoprotein and Cytochrome P-450) were increased.

Perhaps the most ironic result was that body weight among rats, even at the lowest doses of Splenda, increased compared to the control group and continued to increase even after recovery time. The researchers suggest that there may be a type of bodyweight dysregulation occurring after continued intake.

So what does this all mean? Well, if you’re taking Splenda to lose weight, this most recent evidence suggests it may be working against you. Secondly, good gut bacteria (microflora) carry out a number of important roles, including fighting off bad bacteria and producing vitamins, and maintaining normal immune system function. A reduction in these helpful microbes may have an affect on medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, obesity and cancer.

Although I’m an advocate of natural foods and sweeteners, I don’t believe that all man-made food products are bad for you, but there is one major disadvantage and that is that these products are new. It takes years and years before we will ever know the long term effects of these products. And unfortunately, if the first few studies conducted come back pointing to no major adverse effects, we consumers become the next line of guinea pigs. I think consumers have the false comfort that anything approved by the FDA or CFIA is safe, but it’s just not so. I believe the government generally tries to protect us from potentially harmful products (after all, they don’t want to pay for our health care if we end up sick), but the bottom line is that they can’t protect us from things that haven’t emerged yet.

As for Splenda, - well, if I need something sweet, I’m reaching for good old sugar or honey.



Danny April 17, 2012 at 7:31 AM  

The overall tone of this write up is condescending at best. I am NOT a splenda fan or hater yet, but i am looking for information to understand any safety issues. Your write didn't really clarify that and it sounded to me that you are NOT being objective enough but that you were saying that it should be removed from the market because we don't know the long term effects....At what point do we stop eating anything for fear of the "long term effects"? what if primitive man read your opinion and refrained from meat, ,milk, and vegetables because we don't know the long term effects of vegetables?????

Just my opinion here, but I feel that you came short of convincing me of anything. I think you would have done better if you showed the pros and cons of the process of how it is made and brought to light the companies coyness with the public and let your opinion be heard through the science. Well, thank you for your evaluation. I will still look elsewhere for safety issues and hopefully i can make an educated decision to use the stuff or not.


Janine Windsor (Bolton), B.Sc., R.D. April 17, 2012 at 6:59 PM  

Hi "Danny!!!" - thanks for your comment. However, I would say that you have definitely misinterpreted this post.

Your assumption that I would have Splenda removed from the market is unfounded and far from the truth. In fact, I used Splenda and artificial sweeteners for many years before I decided to opt for more natural ingredients and sweeteners, as a personal choice. Artificial sweeteners have a valuable role for the enjoyment and quality of life of many of my patients, including people with diabetes, and I believe whether or not people use them is a personal choice.

You said you're looking for potential safety issues, and that's what this post provided. My intention is not to convince, but to spark discussion, provoke thought and inform so people can make their own decisions.

Best of luck in your search.

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