Sucralose and Environmental Safety
Full scientific scrutiny has been made of sucralose by regulatory agencies and it is our view that they are the best qualified people to listen to on such matters. Unfortunately, some individuals and organizations have taken results from some of the safety studies out of context, to try to raise doubts about the safety of sucralose (e.g. highlighting the results of a study that was not designed to assess a particular health parameter, while ignoring the results of other studies that were). Such out of context criticism could be made of the focus of any scientific study. It’s bad science, scare-mongering and plain wrong.
As part of the safety assessment of sucralose, a number of environmental studies were undertaken in order to ensure that sucralose has no adverse impact on the environment. The environmental studies clearly demonstrated that sucralose is not harmful to plants or wildlife and does not bioaccumulate. Moreover, sucralose does not interfere with the sewage treatment process. Sucralose is inherently biodegradable. In soil, sucralose breaks down to salt, water and carbon dioxide. For more, the Calorie Control Council sat down with Duane Huggett, PhD for a Question and Answer session.
How sucralose is made from sugar
Researchers at Queen Elizabeth College, University of London, discovered sucralose in 1976, during a collaborative research program with UK sugar producer, Tate & Lyle, PLC.
Sucralose is made by a multi-step process that starts with ordinary table sugar (sucrose) and replaces three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule with three chlorine atoms. This results in a stable sweetener that tastes like sugar, but is calorie-free.
After being discovered, sucralose was put through a conclusive safety testing program over a 20-year period. Today sucralose is permitted for use worldwide.
Safety studies show that sucralose is a safe and essentially inert ingredient. Conclusions from the studies include 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: Sucralose is suitable for people with diabetes
- No calories or carbohydrates: Sucralose is not recognized by the body as a carbohydrate and is not metabolized or otherwise broken down for energy
The scientific studies demonstrate, and regulatory agencies agree, that sucralose is safe.
Sucralose has been conclusively studied and has an exemplary safety record.
Below is a sample of some of the research conducted on sucralose.
MYTH: Sucralose has been linked to cancer.
FACT: No, sucralose does not cause cancer. Leading regulatory and health agencies have extensively reviewed the scientific literature on sucralose and concluded that it is not associated with negative health effects, including cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, “Sucralose (Splenda®) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a tabletop sweetener in 1998, followed by approval as a general purpose sweetener in 1999. Before approving sucralose, the FDA viewed more than 100 safety studies that were conducted, including studies to assess cancer risk. The results of these studies showed no evidence that these sweeteners cause cancer or pose any other threat to human health.”
The American Cancer Society has stated, “There is no proof that these sweeteners [sucralose], at levels consumed in human diets, cause cancer. Aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose are a few of the non-nutritive sweeteners approved for use by the FDA. Current evidence does not show a link between these compounds and increased cancer risk.”
MYTH: Sucralose was approved following very little testing.
FACT: More than 100 studies, representing over 20 years of research, have proven sucralose has an excellent safety profile. Experts from a wide range of scientific backgrounds, including government agencies and regulatory authorities, reviewed these studies and concluded there are no harmful effects, even among people consuming the highest amounts of sucralose. Worldwide, sucralose is approved for use in foods and beverages, without the need for any special warning labels or health information statements. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which approved sucralose for certain food and beverage categories in 1998, data was studied “from more than 110 studies in humans and animals. Many of the studies were designed to identify possible toxic effects including carcinogenic, reproductive and neurological effects. No such effects were found, and FDA’s approval is based on the finding that sucralose is safe for human consumption.”
Examples of other government and scientific groups that have reviewed any toxicity concerns and confirmed sucralose’s safety include:
- European Union Scientific Committee on Food (SCF)
- Food Standards Australia/New Zealand (FSANZ)
- Health Protection Branch of Health and Welfare Canada
- Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)
- Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare
MYTH: Sucralose affects blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
FACT: Studies show that sucralose passes through the body virtually unchanged and has no effect on carbohydrate metabolism, short- or long-term blood glucose control or insulin secretion. This is because sucralose is not recognized by the body as a sugar or a carbohydrate. These studies included high-dose prolonged-use studies involving people with diabetes and those without the condition.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that the overall data on sucralose supports its safety for the general population, including people with diabetes. Foods and beverages sweetened with sucralose offer people with diabetes a much wider variety of products from which to choose and greater flexibility in budgeting total carbohydrate intake. Thus, sucralose-sweetened products can help them follow nutrition recommendations and still enjoy good-tasting foods.
- WEIGHT GAIN
MYTH: No-calorie sweeteners actually cause weight gain by increasing sugar cravings.
FACT: Numerous studies have determined that no-calorie sweeteners do not increase appetite, food intake or weight gain. In fact, the vast majority of scientific literature confirms the benefits and safety of using no-calorie sweeteners and products for weight control and weight loss.
The use of no-calorie sweeteners (such as sucralose) can help people in their weight loss/control efforts because it will result in a reduced amount of overall calories in a particular food/beverage while maintaining good taste. However, no-calorie sweeteners (and products that contain them) are not a magic bullet. They should be considered tools, which can be incorporated into an overall healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a balanced diet.
The American Diabetes Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Heart Association, agree that reduced-calorie foods and beverages may be a good option for those who want to control their weight and maintain a better lifestyle. A healthy weight can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other obesity-related illnesses.
MYTH: Sucralose is not safe for children.
FACT: Sucralose has been tested and proven to be safe for use by children of all ages. In fact, sucralose can be part of the solution to the growing problem of childhood obesity by helping to reduce the amount of added sugars children consume daily. Foods containing sucralose – such as low-fat flavored milk, yogurt, juices and puddings – can be included in a healthy meal plan for children to help ensure they are getting all the necessary nutrients, while not getting a lot of extra calories. In a study published in Pediatrics, researchers discovered that overweight children could prevent further weight gain simply by walking another 2,000 steps and eliminating just 100 calories each day using products sweetened with sucralose (also known as Splenda®). This was one of the first times clinical evidence proved that overweight children could effectively prevent excess weight gain by making small changes to their lifestyle.
- PREGNANCY OR BREASTFEEDING
MYTH: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not consume sucralose.
FACT: Research has shown that sucralose does not have harmful effects on pregnant women or their babies. A number of studies required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were conducted, with results supporting the safety of sucralose during pregnancy and nursing. This includes studies that specifically examined the potential effects of sucralose on embryo-fetal development, which showed no birth defects or any other effect that would compromise normal development. Although sucralose can be safely consumed as part of a healthful prenatal and postnatal diet, any expectant mother should talk to her physician or health care provider about consuming the necessary nutrients to support her and her baby’s health throughout pregnancy and infancy.
MYTH: Sucralose isn’t safe because it contains chlorine.
FACT: The sucralose molecule contains three atoms of chlorine, which helps intensify the sweetness of sugar and remove the calories. However, there is no reason to be concerned. The chlorine in sucralose does not separate in the body, nor does sucralose accumulate in the body. In fact, it is the presence of these chlorine atoms that prevents sucralose from being broken down in the body for energy, thus, making sucralose non-caloric. Extensive research shows that sucralose can be used safely by everyone. It’s important to remember that chlorine is a natural component of table salt, which is naturally present in many foods such as lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms and peanut butter. Chlorine is also part of more complex molecules naturally found in other foods like lentils, peas and potatoes. In addition, chlorine is added to most public drinking water supplies.
- SIDE EFFECTS
MYTH: Sucralose causes various side effects including headaches, allergies and gastrointestinal issues.
FACT: Scientists have conducted many studies to determine whether sucralose had any various side effects. Researchers have concluded that there are no known side effects of sucralose. No toxic effects have been seen in test animals, even in amounts equivalent in sweetness to more than 40 pounds of sugar per day for life – far in excess of the amount of sucralose that may typically be consumed in a day in real life. For example, research does not support that sucralose would cause migraines and headaches, gastrointestinal issues or food allergies. It’s important to note that sucralose is often used in foods which contain other ingredients that some people may be sensitive to, such as ice cream or chocolate.