Are artificial sweeteners such as Splenda healthy?

Shira Lenchewski, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
At first glance, artificial sweeteners appear to be the true solution to weight maintenance: providing the sweetness of real sugar, without the carbohydrates or calories. No brainer, right? Here's what you need to know about Splenda.

Splenda, or sucralose, is marketed as a “natural” product because it's made from sugar. But this is misleading, because sucralose does not exist anywhere in nature. In reality, it’s made from sucrose (table sugar) in a lab via a slew of harsh chemicals. During the process, oxygen and hydrogen are exchanged for chlorine (yes, as in pool water). The switch actually makes Splenda 600 times sweeter than table sugar.

Pros: because the body doesn’t recognize sucralose as a carbohydrate, blood sugar is unaffected -- important for people with diabetes.

Cons: animal studies have revealed that sucralose may adversely impact the immune system. In addition, because sucralose is so much sweeter than natural sugar, it may lead to an overstimulation of sugar receptors, making you crave intensely sweet foods throughout the day. Not ideal.

My advice: without long-term studies, we simply don’t know the long-term health effects. And while Splenda may save you some calories and carbs in that iced coffee, it may also change the way you taste food. For these reasons I recommend avoiding artificial sweeteners such as Splenda.
Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
According to the FDA, yes, and most other nutritional scientists agree. They have no DIRECT health effect, good or bad (no matter what you read on the internet). However, in the big picture, here is what’s happening: about 300,000 people die each year from weight-related diseases caused by eating too many calories over their lifetime. The number one source of calories in the American diet is from sugared beverages; #2 is from cakes and sweet-rolls, all in which sugars supply huge amounts of calories. There are no calories in artificial sweeteners (AS) so they do not contribute to weight related or any other death tolls. Those are the facts so you can make up your mind.

But if you ask me (which you did), if it wasn’t for artificial sweeteners (keep in mind AS undergo more scientific scrutiny than any food or drug before it can enter the marketplace), our society would be significantly fatter. In the big picture, artificial sweeteners help people satisfy their eating urges without calories. The US population is already extremely overweight. Who knows where we’d be without artificial sweeteners! And there is new evidence that they can have a positive impact on weight control.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.