Why I Recommend Splenda® Over Other Sweeteners

          The taste is great, but the real reason is its apparently benign impact on blood sugar levels.  Splenda® is made up of dextrose, maltodextrin and sucralose. Now that sounds a bit worrisome because dextrose is a combination of glucose and corn syrup.  Both glucose and corn syrup provide empty calories and cause unstable blood sugar levels.

Furthermore, maltodextrin is made from starch and in its “natural state” maltodextrin molecules are easily digested and absorbed by the body and thus can cause blood sugar spikes. However, the maltodextrin in SPLENDA® has been chemically processed to make it resistant to the digestive enzymes found in the stomach. Consequently, these resistant maltodextrins help lower blood sugar levels.

Because the amount of these ingredients is so small, SPLENDA® has an insignificant calorie value per serving and “meets FDA’s standards for “non-caloric sweeteners,” according to the manufacturer of SPLENDA®. This qualification is met through the FDA criteria of providing less than 5 calories per packet. At this level of caloric intake, I am pleased to recommend the product, especially since it doesn’t seem to spike blood sugar levels.

So what the heck is sucralose, the third ingredient in SPLENDA®? Sucralose is an artificial sweetener which Nutrition Action, the well respected consumer nutrition newsletter, has said may “be the safest artificial sweetener, though no independent tests have been conducted.”

Indeed, the manufacturer, McNeil Nutritionals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson Inc., claims that:

“The safety of sucralose is well documented in more than 100 scientific studies conducted over a 20-year period. In addition, sucralose and, specifically, the safety data on sucralose, has been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other national regulatory agencies, as well as by a variety of international health authorities such as the World Health Organization, and has been found to be safe for use by all consumers, including children, pregnant women and people with diabetes.”

Sucralose is not made from the sugar of beets, but it does originate from cane sugar. However, it is not a sugar itself. Again, according to the manufacturer:

“SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener is not sugar  . . . [it] is manufactured through a patented multi-step process that starts with cane sugar and selectively replaces 3 hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule with 3 chlorine atoms. Chlorine is present naturally in many of the foods and beverages that we eat and drink every day ranging from lettuce, mushrooms and table salt. In the case of sucralose, its addition converts sucrose [sugar] to sucralose.”

The result is an alternative to sugar that doesn’t spike blood sugars. Again, according to the manufacturer:

“Numerous studies have shown that SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener, or sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, is suitable for people with diabetes. Sucralose is not recognized by the body as sugar or as a carbohydrate. It is not metabolized by the body for energy and does not affect blood glucose levels. Sucralose has no effect on carbohydrate metabolism or insulin secretion. Other ingredients in SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener products, which are added to give necessary volume and texture, add only a very small amount of carbohydrate per serving. These are common carbohydrates (maltodextrin and/or dextrose) and are the same type of carbohydrates used in other no calorie sweeteners. They contribute less than 5 calories per serving, which, when used in moderation, (4 packets or 8 tsp. granulated) is considered a free food by the American Diabetes Association.”

Why should we believe the manufacturer? Well, it is manufactured by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, a corporation that has been manufacturing health care products in the U.S. for over 100 years. It also has the endorsement of the American Diabetes Association in that the ADA allows McNeil Nutritionals to assert it is “a proud sponsor “of the American Diabetes Association. (That claim means McNeil Nutritionals has given money to the ADA.) Notwithstanding what some would consider that a conflict of interest, it is a fact that many of the 100 studies mentioned by McNeil have been published in reputable medical journals.

It is also a fact that SPLENDA® has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Although the FDA has dropped the ball regarding sweeteners before, SPLENDA® does appear to be the safest artificial sweetener to date.

I say they “dropped the ball” on sweeteners because the FDA approved and still approves of aspartame (NutraSweet®). New Italian research in animals indicates that long-term consumption of aspartame may increase the risk of leukemia, lymphoma, and breast cancer. Furthermore, people with the rare disease PKU (phenylketonuria) need to avoid aspartame. No groups of people have been identified who have to avoid SPLENDA®.

I’ve been asked why I don’t recommend Stevia, a “natural” product sold in the U.S. as a dietary supplement.  The reason is that it doesn’t have the scientific backup that SPLENDA® has. Many of the studies which have been done indicate worrisome results.  For instance, when Stevia is given in high doses to rats, they demonstrate reduced sperm production and increased cell proliferation in their testicles, an effect which could cause infertility.

There hasn’t yet been a perfect sweetener invented. SPLENDA® comes close (I would feel better if there were no dextrose used at all). However, until there is, I’ll continue to recommend the use of SPLENDA®. The fact that it doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels is good enough for me.

Posted by on October 10th, 2008

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