Are Artificial Sweeteners Really Evil?

People talk about a lot of things in the fitness and health community. There have been many diet crazes -  low fat, no carb, no sugar, high fat - you name it and it has been talked about. If you know me, or have read any articles I have written in the past, you know that I value science and what the evidence really shows. What frustrates me more than anything else are unsubstantiated claims and fear mongering. Today we are talking about artificial sweeteners, namely Sucralose (Splenda).

Fear mongering happens all too often, people vilify the use of artificial sweeteners as being detrimental to your health. Artificial sweeteners are called out for being unnatural, or containing “chemicals”. First off, let’s get a few things straight, not all natural things are good for you, poison ivy is natural, but that doesn’t mean you should eat it.

Every single thing you eat is made up of chemicals, so let’s put that argument to bed. Here is an example of why something being natural is not a valid argument. Other criteria is required to evaluate the efficacy or “goodness” of a substance.

When we look at chemical make up, it's the quantities of certain chemicals that can be detrimental to your health, NOT the fact that they are chemicals or the fact that they are processed or man made. The dosage makes the poison, not the fact that the substance isn't "natural".  Terms like natural, wild, or even organic, don't necessarily mean that the food is healthier for you or that it even contains less substances that are detrimental to human health.

Artificial sweeteners are a great substitute for someone who has a sweet tooth and needs to cut calories and lose some bodyfat. For the sake of this argument, we are going to talk about Sucralose (Splenda). Sucralose is a safe and effective substitute for the sugar we all love without the calories. Don’t just take my word for it, I suggest reading this great article by Ben Esgro of Denovo Nutrition. Here’s a breakdown of the finer points:

 

  • Sucralose was discovered on accident when Sucrose (table sugar) was chlorinated, this caused the hydroxl groups in the sucrose to be replaced with chloro groups.

  • Chlorination is the process of adding chlorine to a chemical structure. (You may be familiar with chlorine from the chemical makeup of table salt, Sodium Chloride.)

  • This caused a change in perception of sweetness increasing it 600 times

 

Sucralose is present in most artificially sweetened products and is the primary sweetener in most cases.

Splenda uses a filler (maltodextrin) so that the volume of the product is very similar to the volume of table sugar for the same sweetness factor, thus why it is so light in comparison to sugar. There have been 110 scientific studies conducted on sucralose and the possible side effects over the last 20 years and it has been deemed safe for human consumption by the FDA with no known side effects.

 

The ill effects from a diet too high in sugar and too high in calories vastly outweighs any perceived issues that could arise from sucralose. In fact, there is no evidence to support that sucralose is detrimental to your health in any way. The health risks from high blood sugar, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity are directly linked to a high sugar, high calorie diet. 


If you are looking to lose weight and want to add a little more sweetness to your diet while cutting calories and limiting your sugar intake sucralose is the way to go!