Q: Dear Healthier Talk,
I have issues with my blood sugar, but I still like to eat sweets.
And coffee, which I love, is too bitter for me without it being nice and sweet.
So I’ve been using the artificial sweetener Splenda instead of sugar to satisfy my cravings. I can even find cakes and cookies made with Splenda at the grocery store.
Should I be concerned about using Splenda? Is it harmful to my health?
– Sweet Tooth, Springdale, Arkansas
A: Dear Sweet Tooth,
We’ve got good news and bad news.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Yes, you should be concerned about using Splenda.
Most folks don’t know it, but in 2013 the Center for Science in The Public Interest in Washington downgraded Splenda, or sucralose, from “safe” to the “caution” list.1 The move was spurred by an Italian study that had linked the sweetener to cancer in mice.
Now a new animal study, published in The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, has confirmed that the demotion was warranted.2
Sucralose linked to malignant cancer tumors
For twelve days researchers fed 10 different groups of mice a sucralose-enriched rich diet in five different concentrations. At the end of the twelve days they found that the male mice had a significant increase in malignant cancer tumors.3
Not only that, the more sucralose the mice had eaten the higher their cancer risk rose.
And cancer isn’t the only potential concern with Splenda either. Some experts classify lab manufactured sweeteners, such as sucralose, as excitotoxins. Excitotoxins are substances that cause the nerve cells in your brain to over fire eventually leading to damage or even death of the cells.4
Splenda has been shown to be “biologically active” potentially effecting your health in a wide variety of ways including impacting metabolism, gut flora, blood sugar and the thyroid.5,6
Study confirms “biologically active” Splenda affects health
In fact, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health5 sucralose could…
- alter your insulin, blood glucose and glucagon-like peptide levels
- metabolize in your GI-tract into substances we don’t yet know are safe
- limit the bioavailability of certain drugs you are taking
- reduce good gut bugs in your GI-tract
- lead to scarring of the cells lining your GI-track
- produce “chloropropanols” during baking, which are potentially toxic
- lead to permanent mutations7 in your body
Most people are under the impression that Splenda is a “safe” sweetener, which is likely a large part of why it has mostly replaced aspartame as the artificial sweetener of choice for most Americans.
But sucralose—which is lab manipulated to turn it into a chlorinated sugar—is a chlorocarbon, and the company it keeps should make anyone concerned. Other cholorocarbons such as trichlorethelene, methylene chloride and tetrachloride are all deadly.
So yes, being concerned (and perhaps even terrified) about how Splenda may be effecting your health is a good idea.
That was the bad news. But the good news is that there are several far safer natural sweeteners you can try.
|3 Natural Sweetener Alternatives to Try|
|Stevia: An all-natural zero calorie sweetener that comes from a plant in the daisy family called Stevia rebaudiana. Studies have even hinted that stevia may even help lower high blood pressure8,9,10 and blood sugar levels in diabetics.11|
|Xylitol: Xylitol is a very low calorie sugar alcohol sweetener. Besides effectively sweetening our food without raising blood sugar, it may help fight cavities12,13 and perhaps even osteoporosis14 according to an exciting animal study. However, as most sugar alcohols can, if you eat too much it can cause temporary tummy troubles.|
|Erythritol: This very low calorie sweetener is a sugar alcohol found naturally in some fruits. It will not raise your blood sugar but it doesn’t have any known health benefits. And keep in mind if you eat too much it can cause some digestive upset.|
Slash your sweet cravings with this simple trick
You also might want to consider cutting back on sweeteners, even the safe kinds we list above, to retrain your taste buds. You’ve heard of an “acquired taste” before, right? Well there’s a biological basis for this idea.
When we’re young we instinctively enjoy sweet flavors like the flavor of mother’s milk which nourishes us. But as we grow older our tastes typically evolve and we begin to enjoy a variety of non-sweet and even bitter and sour foods.
In addition while our ancient ancestors needed to stock up on foods with more sugar value when they were available to prepare their bodies the lean times when food wasn’t so readily available, we no longer need to do this
If you continued to include a lot of sweet foods in your diet as you entered adulthood you may have never given your taste buds the opportunity to acquire a to adjust to, and enjoy, a larger variety of flavors.
Perhaps try real cream in your coffee and half the sweetener you’d typically use for a week. And then the following week use half of the half, slowly weaning yourself off the sweet stuff.
You may be surprised by how much you begin to enjoy the nuanced flavors in your coffee. And satisfy any sweet tooth tendencies you still have with some fruit which is rich in good-for-you vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber (which will slow down the absorption of the fructose, and have less impact on your blood sugar).
1. “Food advocates downgrade Splenda from ‘safe’ to ‘caution’,” upi.com
2. “Study links Splenda to higher risk of leukemia,” upi.com
3. “Sucralose administered in feed, beginning prenatally through lifespan, induces hematopoietic neoplasias in male swiss mice, Sucralose administered in feed, beginning prenatally through lifespan, induces hematopoietic neoplasias in male swiss mice,” International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health Published online: 29 Jan 2016
4. “Medical Definition of excitotoxic,” merriam-webster.com
5. “Sucralose, A Synthetic Organochlorine Sweetener: Overview of Biological Issues,” J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2013 Sep; 16(7): 399–451.
6. “Open Access Article on Biological Effects of the Popular Artificial Sweetener Sucralose,” Science Daily, December 12, 2013
7. “Definition: Mutations / Mutagens,” brookly.cuny.edu
8. “A double-blind placebo-controlled study of the effectiveness and tolerability of oral stevioside in human hypertension,” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Volume 50, Issue 3, pages 215–220, September 2000
9. “Efficacy and tolerability of oral stevioside in patients with mild essential hypertension: A two-year, randomized, placebo-controlled study,” Clinical Therapeutics, November 2003 Volume 25, Issue 11, Pages 2797–2808
10. “The hemodynamic effects of rebaudioside A in healthy adults with normal and low-normal blood pressure,” Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 46, Issue 7, Supplement, July 2008, Pages S40–S46
11. “Antihyperglycemic effects of stevioside in type 2 diabetic subjects,” Metabolism, Volume 53, Issue 1, January 2004, Pages 73–76
12. “Tooth-surface-specific Effects of Xylitol Randomized Trial Results,” JDR June 2013 vol. 92 no. 6 512-517
13. “Xylitol and caries prevention — is it a magic bullet?,” British Dental Journal 194, 429 – 436 (2003), Published online: 26 April 2003
14. “The effects of oral xylitol administration on bone density in rat femur,” Odontology. 2011 Jan;99(1):28-33. doi: 10.1007/s10266-010-0143-2. Epub 2011 Jan 27.
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