by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
Few of us are really aware of how many Splenda® products there are in the supermarkets. We’ve been told that this artificial sweetener is different from all the past failures — Sweet’N Low®, NutraSweet®, etc. — and according to the claims, that Splenda is the perfect sugar substitute: as sweet as sugar, but no calories; as sweet as sugar, but no surge in insulin; as sweet as sugar, but no side effects or long-term health damage.
“Low–sugar” or “sugar–free” is a welcome trend, given the health hazards of all the sugar in the average diet. But of the hundreds of new diet foods that constantly appear, most will use Splenda as a sugar substitute. This is important because for tens of millions of women, their diet soda or artificially-sweetened food is a keystone of what they think are healthy nutrition and food choices — both for themselves and for their families.
On the other side of the argument are responsible experts who say that Splenda is unsafe — the latest in a succession of artificial sweeteners that claim at first to be healthy, only later to be proven to be full of side effects. These authorities say that Splenda has more in common with DDT than with food.
What do we believe? We think that our regulatory system doesn’t do a good enough job ensuring our long-term safety. We’re concerned about the bigger picture, too — the dependence on sweets in the American diet to make us feel good — whether those sweets are satisfied by sugar or artificial sweeteners like Splenda. And we are especially sensitive to the women who can benefit from using artificial sweeteners as a bridge to a better life with healthier nutrition.
What should you think about artificial sweeteners? We want you to be fully informed about the dangers of Splenda (which isn’t what food marketers want!) so you can make the best choices for yourself and for your family. So let’s make sure you are.
Splenda — the public health experiment
“Low–sugar” is the successor to the “low–carb” craze, even though they are essentially the same thing. According to the New York Times, by the end of this summer 11% of the food items on supermarket shelves will be labeled “reduced sugar” — most of those targeted at kids and their health-conscious moms. Sales in granulated sugar have dropped four percent in the past six months. What’s behind this trend? Splenda.
Products featuring Splenda are perceived as “natural” because even the FDA’s press release about sucralose parrots the claim that “it is made from sugar” — an assertion disputed by the Sugar Association, which is suing Splenda’s manufacturer, McNeil Nutritionals.
The FDA has no definition for “natural,” so please bear with us for a biochemistry moment. Splenda is the trade name for sucralose, a synthetic compound stumbled upon in 1976 by scientists in Britain seeking a new pesticide formulation. It is true that the Splenda molecule is comprised of sucrose (sugar) — except that three of the hydroxyl groups in the molecule have been replaced by three chlorine atoms.