While some industry experts claim the molecule is similar to table salt or sugar, other independent researchers say it has more in common with pesticides. That’s because the bonds holding the carbon and chlorine atoms together are more characteristic of a chlorocarbon than a salt — and most pesticides are chlorocarbons. The premise offered next is that just because something contains chlorine doesn’t guarantee that it’s toxic. And that is also true, but you and your family may prefer not to serve as test subjects for the latest post-market artificial sweetener experiment — however “unique.”
Once it gets to the gut, sucralose goes largely unrecognized in the body as food — that’s why it has no calories. The majority of people don’t absorb a significant amount of Splenda in their small intestine — about 15% by some accounts. The irony is that your body tries to clear unrecognizable substances by digesting them, so it’s not unlikely that the healthier your gastrointestinal system is, the more you’ll absorb the chlorinated molecules of Splenda.
So, is Splenda safe? The truth is we just don’t know yet. There are no long-term studies of the side effects of Splenda in humans. The manufacturer’s own short-term studies showed that very high doses of sucralose (far beyond what would be expected in an ordinary diet) caused shrunken thymus glands, enlarged livers, and kidney disorders in rodents. A more recent study also shows that Splenda significantly decreases beneficial gut flora. But in this case, the FDA decided that because these studies weren’t based on human test animals, they were not conclusive. Of course, rats had been chosen for the testing specifically because they metabolize sucralose more like humans than any other animal used for testing. In other words, the FDA has tried to have it both ways — they accepted the manufacturer’s studies on rats because the manufacturer had shown that rats and humans metabolize the sweetener in similar ways, but shrugged off the safety concerns on the grounds that rats and humans are different. In our view, determining that something is safe (or not) in laboratory rats isn’t a definitive answer, as we’ve seen countless examples of foods and drugs that have proved dangerous to humans that were first found to be safe in laboratory rats, both in short- and long-term studies.
Here are two other reasons for our concern: first, in the eleven years after Splenda was put on the market, no independent studies of sucralose lasting more than six months have been done in humans. Second, none of the trials that were done was very large — the largest was 128 people studied for three months, making us wonder, what happens when you’ve used sucralose for a year, or two, or ten? Then there’s the fact that Splenda, as a product, consists of more than just sucralose—it’s made with dextrose, and sometimes also with maltodextrin, neither of which were included in the original studies and trials of sucralose. So the reality is that we are the guinea pigs for Splenda.
And now, are our children the next trial group? Thanks to an agreement between McNeil Nutritionals (makers of Splenda) and PTO Today, which provides marketing and fund-raising aid to parents’ associations, your elementary school’s next bake sale may be sponsored by Splenda — complete with baked goods made with the product.
Splenda side effects
Evidence that there are side effects of Splenda is accumulating little by little. Sucralose has been implicated as a possible migraine trigger, for example. Self-reported adverse reactions to Splenda or sucralose collected by the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center include skin rashes/flushing, panic-like agitation, dizziness and numbness, diarrhea, swelling, muscle aches, headaches, intestinal cramping, bladder issues, and stomach pain. These show up at one end of the spectrum — in the people who have an allergy or sensitivity to the sucralose molecule. But no one can say to what degree consuming Splenda affects the rest of us, and there are no long-term studies in humans with large numbers of subjects to say one way or the other if it’s safe for everyone.