Ask an Expert

We asked many of you for your questions on sucralose. Here are the top questions we received and the answers direct from registered dietitians with the Calorie Control Council.

Which sugar-substitute is healthy & good for me since there are so many options on the market? I am presently using Splenda.

Splenda (a brand name) also known as sucralose is a great option.  The short answer to your question is to choose the one you like best!  The longer answer is that while all sugar substitutes taste sweet, they don’t all taste the same.  Everyone perceives taste differently so what might appeal to one person might not appeal to someone else. The good news is that all of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved sweeteners, such as sucralose, are safe, can help lower carbohydrate intake at meals, and do not raise blood glucose or insulin levels.  This is important for people with diabetes who need to manage and control the amount of carbohydrate they consume in order to help control their diabetes.

I heard from my doctor that Splenda or sucralose is extremely harmful to the liver especially over a period of time. Has there been extensive studies conducted on sucralose and the liver?
Before sucralose was approved, it was extensively and thoroughly tested.  In the U.S. , all food ingredients including sugar substitutes such as sucralose must undergo rigorous safety testing to ensure that they are safe for all people, even the most vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, pregnant and breastfeeding women.  The majority of sucralose is not absorbed and leaves the body totally unchanged in the feces.   The small amount that is absorbed is excreted unchanged in the urine.  Sucralose has not been shown to build up in the liver or other organs in the body.  Thus, there is no reason as to why sucralose would be harmful to the liver.
I have been using sucralose for about a year now to help manage prediabetes. I use it every day in my coffee & oatmeal. Recently, however, I saw that the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is linking sucralose to leukemia and other blood cancers. Is this true and should I refrain from using sucralose?

Up until recently, CSPI regarded sucralose as safe. The study on which CSPI is basing their revised recommendation is an outlier (e.g., studies that do not agree with the majority of scientific studies) and does not conform to recommended guidelines for evaluating cancer risk. It is important to note that no major health or regulatory agency (including the US FDA and the European Food Safety Authority) have changed their recommendations regarding sucralose based on these study findings. In addition, the National Cancer Institute stated in their 2009 fact sheet that there is no evidence of cancer and an association with sugar substitutes such as sucralose.

Does sucralose cause gastrointestinal problems such as excessive gas, acid reflux or irritation of stomach?

Gastrointestinal issues are not only uncomfortable, they can also be very serious, which is why it is important to discuss any gastrointestinal symptoms with your healthcare provider. That said, sudden increases and large quantities of foods or ingredients that are only partially digested but are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine can result in gastrointestinal symptoms such as excessive gas. However, sugar substitutes such as sucralose are not fermented and have a low risk of gastrointestinal symptoms.

Does sucralose make you gain weight?

Sugar substitutes such as sucralose do not contain calories and therefore cannot cause weight gain.  Research has shown that sucralose does not cause an increase in cravings of sweet foods and beverages and does not lead to excess weight. In fact, sucralose can help you reduce calories, thereby managing your weight.  It’s important to remember that sugar substitutes such as sucralose are one tool (and not a magic bullet) to help you maintain and/or lose weight.  Using sucralose or other sugar substitutes is not a license to over-indulge in other areas of the diet.  In fact, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) an organization of 70,000 plus registered dietitians, “Using sucralose in either an energy-restricted or ad libitum diet will affect overall energy balance only if the sucralose is substituted for higher-energy food or beverages.”

However, foods and drinks sweetened with sugar substitutes such as sucralose provide a sweet taste without the calories, which allows you to enjoy some of your favorite foods and beverages without indulging in higher calorie options. A variety of other lifestyle modifications such as exercise, portion control, increased fruit and vegetable consumption, etc., are also important. Further, a study done in children with sucralose found that sucralose can be helpful in decreasing or maintaining weight, especially when other lifestyle changes are included.

I have heard that sucralose causes Multiple Sclerosis-like symptoms. What were the findings of sucralose on the central nervous system?

As previously noted, sucralose has undergone extensive and conclusive safety assessments which have spanned the last 20 years, including evaluation of any effect on the central nervous system.  Research shows that sucralose is a safe ingredient and conclusions from studies indicate the following:

  • No known side effects
  • Not toxic: No adverse effects seen in test animals, even in amounts equivalent in sweetness to 40+ pounds of sugar per day for life
  • No effect on carbohydrate metabolism
  • No effect on short- or long-term blood glucose control or on serum insulin levels

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) states, “It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners when consumed within an eating plan that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary Reference Intakes, as well as individual health goals and personal preference.”

Items of Interest

September 12, 2016 Lifestyle Advice