Is Splenda Bad for You?
Just once, it would be great to see a no calorie sweetener that had no controversy. One that wouldn't only make your food taste amazing, but actually be good for you! An anti-oxident-rich sweetener that would end heart disease and cure blindness! Wouldn't that be great?
Alas, we are stuck with possibly harmful sugar alternatives. Even the much-vaunted herbal stevia is surrounded with questions. But what about Splenda, which is touted as being "natural" because it is made from sugar?
Well...natural is relative. Splenda is created by replacing hydrogen and oxygen atoms with chlorine atoms. Chlorine, as in chlorine bleach? Yes! But really, that in and of itself is no reason to freak out. A chlorine atom isn't the same thing as bleach.
Some claim that this makes Splenda similar to a pesticide, but it's good to note that chemically speaking, just because something is similar to one thing, doesn't mean it is that thing.
Splenda isn't really digested, so in small doses it is probably OK for most people. Some people do report adverse affects to Splenda, but they may be allergic. (Some people also report adverse affects to otherwise benign foods such as peanuts.)
The problem is, we're not sure of the long-term effects of Splenda. As Marcelle Pick writes on Women to Women:
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.
Here's an alternative perspective from someone who criticizes the anti-Splenda "hysteria":
Readers of this column may recall that one of my previous articles covered the alleged dangers of fluoride, another chemical that elicits paranoia among select groups of people, namely those with a vested interest in perpetuating a series of untruths about medicine and personal safety. Like Splenda, the hysteria about fluoride is really about the misbegotten belief that anything "chemical" is dangerous.
This distorted point of view ignores the basic precept of toxicology: The dose makes the poison. In other words, almost any substance—including water—is dangerous in large quantities. Aspirin may cure a headache, but a whole bottle could have awful effects. A glass of wine may help lower blood pressure, but twelve glasses will leave a person drunk and probably sick, as well. Put another way, reasonable quantities of Splenda—used as intended—will have zero effect on the body.
My feeling is this. If you are suffering serious effects of obesity, including diabetes, now, you're probably doing more harm to yourself by eating sugar than a tiny bit of Splenda. You already know that too many calories are killing you - are you willing to take on definitive health problems just because you might get other side effects from Splenda, years and years from now?
Splenda, like everything else, should be taken in moderation. If you eat too much soy, it's bad for you. If you drink too much wine, it's bad for you. But a glass of wine a day is good for your heart, and soy taken with a balanced diet is an excellent source of protein and nutrients.
And there is of course, the herbal alternative, stevia, but we're also not sure what the long-term effects of stevia intake are. So you're back to square one in terms of question marks if you switch to stevia. Perhaps one way to approach it would be to use both Splenda and stevia in small quantities, so you are not overdosing on just one sugar alternative.