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Herbal Supplements Spotlight, Issue #003 -- Splenda Sugar Substitute...Not So Splendid
December 07, 2004

Splenda, The "Bitter" Sweetener

Splenda may cause more harm than good

The manufacturers of sucralose, the sugar substitute which has enjoyed tremendous success since its introduction several years ago, announced this week that they are having trouble keeping up with rising demands for the product.

As a result, they will not take on any new customers until 2006, and supplies of sucralose will be tight for the foreseeable future. This may just be a blessing in disguise.

For those of you who don’t know what sucralose is, it’s the scientific name for the artificial sweetener marketed as Splenda by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, a division of Johnson & Johnson.

As you may have noticed, Splenda currently dominates the $337 million sugar substitute market, beating out the former leader, Equal (aspartame). Splenda can now be found in place of sugar in many consumer products, including sodas, syrups, gum and ice cream.

Although sucralose (Splenda) can be beneficial in that it doesn't have the calories or the effect on blood glucose levels that regular sugar does, there are many potential problems with Splenda that you should be aware of before you decide to try these products:

1. Sucralose is not a natural compound, like regular sugar. Rather it is a man-made derivative of sugar, formed in a lab by adding chlorine atoms to sucrose. The resulting product is known as a chlorocarbon, a class of chemicals that have been shown to cause organ damage as well as reproductive problems.

2. Despite claims to the contrary, sucralose has thus far been the least tested of all sugar substitutes to hit the U.S. market. As of mid-November 2004, there were only 76 clinical studies performed on sucralose cited in the National Library of Medicine. As a frame of reference, there are 774 studies on aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) and over 3000 on saccharin….scary huh?

3. There is absolutely no long-term research on the effects of sucralose. Therefore, its safety over an extended period of time is unknown. In essence, Splenda is much like a pharmaceutical drug…it is a man-made, chemically manipulated substance that serves a specific purpose with limited long-term health data to support its use. And as with prescription drugs, there are many potential health risks, as there are for any unnatural substances (cigarette smoke, alcohol, drugs, etc) that you introduce to your body.

4. What are the health risks? Since human studies on Splenda are virtually non-existent, we have to rely on animal research, which has revealed the following problems. In laboratory rats, mice and rabbits, sucralose has been shown to cause some very serious adverse effects such as: shrunken thymus glands, enlarged liver and kidneys, reduced growth rate and aborted pregnancies, among other health complications.

5. According to the FDA, sucralose has been shown to be “98% pure”. Sounds safe enough, yet the other 2% contains dangerous substances such as lead, arsenic, methanol and other contaminants. This should certainly be cause for concern. Additionally, a significant portion of sucralose has been shown to be absorbed by the body, despite manufacturers claiming it is passed through the body in its entirety and excreted. Having this unnatural substance remain in our bloodstream presents many health concerns.

The bottom line here is that although you are avoiding the unwanted calories of sugar with Splenda, you are potentially gaining a host of health problems, many of which could take years to manifest themselves.

Unfortunately, just like with pharmaceutical drugs, the companies that manufacture these sugar substitutes make billions of dollars off these products, and as such do whatever they can to hide the health risks from the public to protect their interests.

Just look at Vioxx, the leading anti-inflammatory drug on the market that was recently recalled. Evidence is emerging that Merck knew for years the potential for increased strokes and heart attacks, but fought tooth and nail to keep this evidence quiet, all the while heavily promoting to doctors and consumers. Yet when they could no longer deny these serious problems, they “voluntarily” recalled Vioxx from the market.

Now you might be saying to yourself, a sugar substitute can’t be as bad as a pharmaceutical drug, can it? Well, both are synthetic chemical substances made in a lab, and both need to be approved by the same governing body, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), before they are able to be sold to the public. Well, Vioxx was approved by the FDA, rather quickly I might add, as were many other drugs that have raised serious health concerns or have since been banned altogether.

So what’s the solution? Sugar or Splenda?

Well, the best advice would be, as far as your health is concerned, to avoid sugar and sugar substitutes such as Splenda as much as possible, as both can contribute to potential health problems down the road. Both natural and artificial sweeteners can wreak havoc on your body.

But since most of us can't live without our sweets, we would recommend that you not view Splenda as an excuse to start loading up on snacks, ice creams and sodas that contain this artificial sweetener.

In many respects these food items could be worse for your health than their natural sugar counterparts. Keep in mind that less fat and less calories doesn’t always mean less health problems!

Until next time, here’s to your health!

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