Is Splenda really Splendid?

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Splenda, that wonderful trick on nature that allows us to have our cake and eat it too.  Unlike its predecessor Aspartame (NutraSweet), it can hold up to cooking temperatures and not breakdown – It can probably hold up to a nuclear blast as I think nothing can break this crap down!  People claim it tastes just like sugar, but I think it taste like a sugar and aspirin combination.  I accidentally drank some in a beverage once and gagged and tossed the rest of the drink away.  But for those who like a little pharmaceutical taste with their confections or just love the taste of sweets so much they can tolerate the bitter after taste – Splenda seems like a real cheat on nature.  But is Splenda really that splendid in the larger picture?  Let’s take a look at what we know, and more importantly what we don’t know yet.

Splenda contains a man-made compound named sucralose.  Sucralose is about 600 times sweeter than sugar.  The amount needed to sweeten your coffee would be so tiny, that you wouldn’t be able to get it out of the little yellow packet because static would bind the dust to the side of the paper.  So to solve this problem, the manufacturer adds filler in the form of dextrose, sucrose or maltodextrin, which are sugars, giving each pack about four calories – even though they claim zero calories.  The manufacturer claims that Splenda taste like sugar, because it’s made from sugar.  So how much processing does sugar go through to become sucralose?  The following is the recipe for making sucralose.  Try to make it at home:

  1. Sucrose is tritylated with trityl chloride in the presence of dimethylformamide and 4-methylmorpholine, and the tritylated sucrose is then acetylated with acetic anhydride.
  2. The resulting sucrose molecule TRISPA is chlorinated with hydrogen chlorine in the presence of toluene.
  3. The resulting 4-PAS is heated in the presence of methyl isobutyl ketone and acetic acid.
  4. The resulting 6-PAS is chlorinated with thionyl chloride in the presence of toluene and benzyltriethylammonium chloride.
  5. The resulting TOSPA is treated with methanol in the presence of sodium methoxide to produce sucralose.

Ahhhh… just the way grandma used to make it.  Hardly the idea that is suggested when the package states; “Tastes like sugar because it’s made from sugar.”.  Being made from sugar gives the impression of something that’s natural.  This is nothing nature would have the audacity to create, because it serves no purpose. I am confused as to why anyone would consume mass quantities of a substance that has no nutritional value and is not even a food by any definition of the word.

Sucralose is a sugar molecule that does not exist in nature.  Sucralose begins its journey as a sucrose disaccharide (meaning it’s made of two simple sugars or monosaccharides).  The two sugars in sucrose are glucose and fructose.  Sucrose is the sugar found in fruits, honey, cane, beets and syrups, including HFCS.  Through an elaborate chemical process that would make any mad scientist proud, the stereochemistry of the glucose molecule is changed, making it more resemble galactose.  A fructose/galactose disaccharide is not anything commonly found in food, so how is the body to deal with such a monstrosity?  The real secret to sucralose is that the final product replaces the three oxygen and hydrogen atoms at the end of the now deformed glucose molecule with chlorine molecules, making the compound a organochlorine.

 Organochlorines have historically had a bad reputation.  Usually only used as a pesticide, they would include a family tree containing chlordane, DDT, Agent Orange and PCBs.  All of these compounds were such a disaster, they have been banned from usage.  Sucralose was invented accidentally while trying to create a new pesticide.  The worse attribute of organochlorines is their resistance to biodegradation, causing an accumulation of the compound in the environment.  Supporters of Splenda’s safety will argue that the chlorine (a compound toxic to all living things) is of no threat to the consumer, because the human body can’t break down sucralose and release the chlorine into the tissues.  I am not going to follow along with the typical scare tactic of the chlorine causing health problems.  After all, the body cannot metabolize the sucralose, so the chlorine never reaches the cells.  Although, the FDA final report on sucralose states that 11 to 27% is absorbed by the human body and has a half-life in the blood of 3–5 hours.  The Japanese Food Sanitation Council found that the body can metabolize up to 40% of sucralose, which if true, could be a health risk to those who consume a lot of it. [link]  But until more information and studies are released on this, I will not use this argument.

The real problem with sucralose is the mechanism that makes it work as a sugar substitute – the fact that nothing living can break it down.  Studies done on rats have shown that the rodents fed sucralose had a 50% reduction in gut bacteria. [link]  This could be something to consider.  No human studies have yet been conducted, but I cannot see why human gut bacteria (which are mostly the same bacteria found in rat colons) would fare any better against this substance.  So anyone eating yogurt sweetened with Splenda in hopes of restoring gut flora are kind of like a dog chasing its own tail.

Whenever anything we eat is not digested or absorbed, the bacteria within the colon will attempt to feed on it.  Oligosaccharides (fiber) are also indigestible. When these natural carbohydrates reach the colon undigested, the bacteria begin to ferment and convert them to butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid used by the cells of the colon.  But, when sucralose reaches the large intestines undigested, the bacteria can’t deal with it in any way.  The rat study would suggest that the bacteria may die-off in the attempt to metabolize it.  So what happens next is that the sucralose passes out with the stool, unchanged.  The percentage of sucralose that is absorbed into the bloodstream, is filtered out by the kidneys and passes with the urine.  If you eat sucralose, then you are defecating and urinating sucralose with each trip to the bathroom.  You’re probably saying to yourself; “So, I have sweet tasting urine and poop and what’s wrong with that?”.

Studies have proven that modern waste treatment does not remove the sucralose from waste water.  Details on the study here.  So this sweet frankenfood is finding its way back into the water supply.  Sucralose breaks down very slowly, if at all, in nature and we have absolutely no idea of its impact on the environment yet.  I would imagine that in time, our water will begin to have a sweet (and aspirin) flavor.  Look, if someone insists on being the subject of a giant experiment by the food manufacturers and risk possible side effects because they can’t tame their sweet tooth, then fine.  But what about those of us who choose not be a corporate guinea pig and are suspicious of the safety claims of sucralose.  They’re telling us and every other animal on the planet, that they don’t give a damn and we will have to learn to enjoy their second-hand franken-sweets and share in whatever health risks that they’re willing to take to satisfy their never-ending lust for sweets.

Everyone bitches about second-hand smoke, but no one is contemplating the effects of second-hand sucralose.  What if the bacteria in the rat colons are an indication of what could happen to the bacteria in the top soil if sucralose builds up over time from irrigation?  How will crops be affected by high concentrations of sucralose in their water?  These are serious questions that no one has the answers to at this time, and unfortunately, no one seems to care.  Do we have to spend billions of dollars inventing and implementing waste water modifications just so some people can have an artificial sweetener?  Like I said at the beginning of this rant, the things we don’t know about sucralose may be the most alarming.   If someone can’t apply moderation when it comes to sweets, they should at least eat sugar, aspartame or better yet, stevia.  These can at least break down quickly and stop at the end-user.  Even though excessive sugar consumption can cause obesity, diabetes and heart disease, at least they won’t be pissing their indestructible organochlorines all over the rest of us who can practice self-control.   Then they alone are the one gambling a health risk, not the entire planet.


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8 Responses to Is Splenda really Splendid?
  1. Jean
    December 9, 2011 | 7:11 pm

    Going to be a little bit OT / a dick – please bear with me.
    Sucralose isn’t the only thing that does this – see also xenoestrogens (includes pesticides, plastics, release agents used on molds for plastic shapes, solvents, lubricants, birth control and hormone pills), and also many medications, such as valium, anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, antibiotics, and others.
    Not relevant to your discussion per se, but supports the sucralose surviving in the environment, and the studies ALSO confirm the results of “second hand” use of drugs (and more effectively than the “fixed” studies on second-hand smoke. Say what you will, my father is a chemist, rocket scientist, and smoker; and if _I_ can read the studies and see the flaws, egged on by his insistence? Yep, same as another of your posts – the study was SUPPOSED to find {SMOKING IS EVIL} and so it did, just like Prohibition said from the start that {LIQUOR IS EVIL} and we got such great benefits as organized crime…)
    Point was, there’s other evidence, such as children growing breasts and pubic hair – age 1, say – and fish and frogs mutated, warped, sterile, intersexed… And you can BET it’s happening to us. After all, it’s another “health crisis” for Government to FIX (Make money and laws about)….
    😉

  2. Mark
    May 7, 2012 | 10:15 pm

    Just a note, that Duke study was not well done (http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Sucralose-safety-scientifically-sound-Expert-panel). I believe sucralose is excreted completely in 24 hours (http://www.kon.org/urc/frank.html) making it seem like less of an issue.

    I think there is a lot of crap out there and I personally try to reduce sweetners as much as possible, but I think sucralose is the least of America’s health concerns right now. Just my two cents. Great blog, just started reading. Incredible the hell you went through. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Wolverine
      May 7, 2012 | 10:57 pm

      Thanks for the comment. The post I wrote does not make any adverse claims about sucralose on the individual consumer’s health, because it cannot be digested by a human. The article was targeted more on the environmental impact it could have (of that we don’t know, but we do know it stays around a long time). But more importantly, it’s about civil rights. I should have the right NOT to consume sucralose if I want. But millions of people pissing it out into the water supply daily are forcing me and anyone else that want to abstain from this experimental man-made food product to consume it in our food and water.

      What if it turns out to be detrimental on the environment? We will be stuck with it, because it could take hundreds of years for it to biodegrade – no one yet knows. No other food product refuses to biodegrade the way sucralose does and that’s a bit frightening. That same sucralose you eat could end up being consumed by hundreds of other people, as it recycles from one life-form to another.

      It may well be the least of America’s problem, or it could turn out to be one of the worst as it builds up in the environment. Only time will tell and it could be really bad for that future generation when all of the watersheds are full of sucralose with no way to filter it out. I just wrote the article as food for thought.

      Thanks for the comment and for your condolences for my ordeal. I’m just lucky to be alive and able to write a blog. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Jan B
    August 2, 2012 | 3:44 am

    For people like myself, sucrolose is a horror.

    I was drinking meal replacement shakes by the Visalus company. Best tasting things I’ve ever had. About two months in, I realized that my life was falling apart. I was spending all day in bed because of migraines. Not good, since I have three young kids. And I gained thirty pounds, probably from being bedridden.

    It took another month before a smart physician assistant asked me to do an elimination diet before my scheduled MRI. It didn’t take long to realize that the new food I’d added was causing the headaches.

    After I stopped the shakes, the headaches tapered off. Now I’m finding that I have an intolerance for all artificial sweeteners, even my beloved stevia.

    I just wonder, what are these sweeteners really doing to cause these migraines? Scary.

    • Wolverine
      August 2, 2012 | 4:57 am

      I had read stories about some people who get horrible migraines from sucralose. That would certainly suggest that it passes the blood brain barrier.

      That’s interesting that you now have bad reactions to all artificial sweeteners – even stevia. I have read that some people get migraines from some of the new stevia compounds, like truvia, but it was found that many of them were having the adverse reaction to the erythritol (a sugar alcohol) additive. True stevia is a natural plant, so no one could get a patent on it. By refining it and adding other sweetners, Coke and Pepsi were able to not only get a patent, but also get the FDA to allow them to sell it as a sweetener. True stevia is still illegal to advertise as a sweetener and can only be sold with the supplements – what a bunch of crap. I swear, our government is corporate owned.

      Have you ever tried unprocessed stevia? If it’s a white powder, it is refined and probably mixed with other sweeteners or solvents were used in its extraction, which you could be reacting to. Real, unprocessed stevia is a green powder. It’s actually pretty easy to grow in most parts of the country. I’m in Florida, so it grows real well.

      It’s probably best to just avoid a lot of sweet tastes. Since I rarely eat things that are unnaturally sweet, I find that my taste buds are more sensitive to sweetness and things that I didn’t used to think were sweet, now taste sweet to me. I think that most americans have very dull tastebuds regarding sweetness, because we have overwhelmed them with sugar from birth. Sort of like the way the ears go deaf to certain frequencies that we listen to all the time at loud volumes. My mother-in-law puts about six packets of Splenda in a cup of coffee. Her sweet tastebuds must be nearly deaf. If someone insists on having things that ridiculously sweet, changing to an artificial sweetener is hardly going to help. I’d rather have sensitive tastebuds, so I can enjoy more foods.

  4. Rod T
    August 16, 2013 | 2:49 am

    Good story. We don’t know if this is going to have an environmental impact, but it’s just another thing we dump into our waterways. And away it goes, into that infinite drain, our oceans. Along with plastics, bisphenols, antibiotics, etc etc etc
    Just found your post after drinking a sample protein supplement with sucralose. They thought I was weird because I specified unflavoured. This just convinced me, yuck yuck, can’t get that cacky taste out of my mouth. So I ate mint lolly. So much for the sugar, but I don’t do that much.
    Have a look at the diet effects of artificial sweeteners. I believe the evidence shows they don’t actually help weight loss anyway, so their whole premise is flawed anyway.
    My protein supplement purchase will contain no flavouring, and I’ll just add a pinch of drinking chocolate to taste.
    Rod

    • Wolverine
      September 17, 2013 | 3:27 am

      Thanks, Rod. Yeah, you don’t see most of the skinny people of the world ordering diet sodas, do you? That’s the way it should be if they actually worked as advertised. The more I studied about sucralose, the more I became less concerned with what t does to someone who drinks it (there’s really no evidence that it is harmful) and more concerned with it’s effect on the environment, because it does not biodegrade.

      I personally won’t drink the stuff, because it tastes bad for one, and I see no reason to eat something that isn’t even a food, but a chemical made by accident in a lab – might as well eat plastic. It has no nutritional value and tastes like crap, why would anybody eat or drink that. I guess some people will gag down anything that promises to make them thin – even though there is not one shred of evidence that anyone lost weight by drinking diet beverages.

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