sweetIt’s been many years since we started to see stories about the adverse effects experienced by people who use the artificial sweetener, SUCRALOSE (Splenda). But, for the most part, they were JUST STORIES, anecdotal reports from people who seemed to be having bad experiences after using this artificial sweetener. The community that supported the use of sucralose had solid, scientific evidence that their product was safe. The stories about problems were usually debunked.

Research reported in January, 2008 is just starting to see the light of day. It was published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. The authors are associated with Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Caroline. They report a 12 to 24-week study that used rats. Why rats?

“Rats serve as very important animal models of many human diseases and conditions and are one of the most important experimental animals in studies related to understanding physiological processes and health concerns in humans,” said NCRR Director Judith Vaitukaitis, M.D. “Almost every organ system in humans can be studied using specific rat strains or mutants.” (quote from NIH).

Evidence from this research indicates that a 12-wk administration of Splenda exerted numerous adverse effects, including

  1. reduction in beneficial fecal microflora,
    For years I’ve recommended that people should take a daily dose of a quality probiotic. These products provide billions of active colony-forming units of “good bacteria”, the organisms in our guts that help us digest food and absorb nutrients. There are many things in our environment and diet that can kill off these beneficial “bugs”. This recent study demonstrates that something as common as Splenda can reduce the numbers of good bacteria – as much as 50%. That is significant. (The probiotic we recommend is Florajen 3)
  2. increased fecal pH,
    The presence of sucralose in the gut raised pH, the amount of alkaline material. That means that it REDUCES the amount of acid (HIGHER pH means LOWER acid). Acid is necessary for digestion and it seems that acid levels are “out-of-whack” in almost everyone. For proof, just take a look at how many “antacid” products are on the shelves. CONCLUSION: Determine if any of the products you consume contain Splenda (or sucralose
  3. enhanced expression levels of P-gp, CYP3A4, and CYP2D1,
    These are known to limit the bioavailability of orally administered drugs. Now we’re into something serious. If you are using sucralose regularly, any drugs you take – ANY DRUGS – might not be working as you or your doctor intends. If you have experienced troubling side effects or unexpected activity from any drug, talk to your doctor. The evidence suggests that the issue may be directly related to any sucralose you are consuming. Your doctor must know about this and you have to communicate with him or her if you are using a drug and plan to change your diet.

Another finding is ironic. While most people use sucralose to reduce their calorie intake – and help them loose weight – this research points out that using sucralose can actually cause weight gain.

Overall, I am not surprised by this research report. Using chemicals instead of natural products is rarely a good plan, especially when the natural products are far less harmful overall. Sugar – in reasonable amounts – is safe if you MUST have sweetness. Be sure that you use beet or cane sugar, not the most common product called high fructose corn syrup (HFCS – a product that has undergone enzymatic processing to increase fructose content). Another plant product is extracted from an herb called Stevia rebaudiana – one of a genus of plants native to South and Central America. The best course of action is to find ways to reduce the overall amount of all sweeteners. Sweetness is pleasant, but it is often overdone – just think of a fudge brownie ala mode (sweet cake, thick fudge topping, with a scoop of ice cream).


  1. Use a probiotic every day (Florajen 3)
  2. Add acids to your diet (don’t take antacid drugs)
  3. Talk to your doctor before your totally stop using sucralose if you are using ANY drugs
  4. Don’t use ANY artificial sweeteners to lose weight
  5. Make a plan to cut your cravings for sugar. It takes time, but it is worth the effort.

Wikipedia reports that sucralose is added to over 4,500 foods (Information extracted 10/22/2008)
FDA approval of Sucralose. Sucralose is the chemical 1,6-dichloro-1,6-dideoxy-

[beta]-D-fructofuranosyl-4-chloro-4-deoxy-[alpha]-D-galactopyranoside (CAS Reg. No. 56038-13-2)

It must be noted that the company that makes Splenda was quick to dismiss the study and draw attention to a number of other studies supporting the safety of the sweetener. The company questioned the methodology and the conclusions drawn by the researchers. Emphasis was also placed on the involvement of the Sugar Association as partial sponsor of the study.

Over the years, I have swung back and forth about “The Atkins Diet”. When I first read about Dr. Atkins’ ideas, I thought they were too radical. After all, replacing all carbohydrates with protein and fat seemed a bit dramatic – not to mention that following his plan meant that I couldn’t eat a lot of the carbohydrates I loved (biscuits, baked potatoes, sweet rolls, and so on).

The diet plan itself pointed out that by following it a person would develop ketosis. This isn’t a healthy state – it indicates an imbalance and an acidic condition that I long believed to be unhealthy.   How could a good eating plan cause me to give up so much and unbalance my basic chemistry?

I researched more and found that the acid imbalance was temporary – and not as dramatically dangerous as I had thought. The plan had merit – to a degree. It still called for people to remove what I believed to be a vital part of the nutritional “pyramid” – carbohydrates.

Good idea or bad idea? Atkins persisted and thousands of people followed his plan – with success and without harm. I tried it – slightly modified to allow a small amount of whole grain bread. It worked. Weight came off and I felt healthy. Yet, I could not personally endorse the entire Atkins plan.

Atkins has been vindicated by some of the more notable medical studies. It appears that people really would do better in many ways if they replace their carbohydrates with healthy portions of protein and good fats.

Our family tries to favor protein and fat in our diet and we started using some of the low carb bars for snacks – or to replace a meal when we needed nutrition in a hurry. We settled on the Atkins brand of bars – they taste good, had few carbohydrates, offered a large amount of protein and they bore the Atkins name. He had been correct on the whole issue so we concluded his bars were the best available. Their sweetness comes – not from sugar – but from sucralose (Splenda).

Here’s where the story goes sour. Studies show that there are serious potential health risks from ingesting sucralose. You see, this very sweet material is made in a laboratory (that in itself doesn’t make it bad). It is made by replacing certain pieces of the sucrose molecule with chlorine. Sucralose is a chlorocarbon (so is carbon tetrachloride). The industry talking heads say that the chlorine is so tightly bound to the basic molecule that there is no danger. But the fact remains that people who use sucralose in their diet sometimes experience serious effects – directly related to the chemical.

Why not use Splenda? Well, research in animals has shown that sucralose can cause many problems such as:

  • Shrunken thymus glands (up to 40 percent shrinkage)
  • Enlarged liver and kidneys
  • Atrophy of lymph follicles in the spleen and thymus
  • Reduced growth rate
  • Decreased red blood cell count
  • Hyperplasia of the pelvis
  • Extension of the pregnancy period
  • Aborted pregnancy
  • Decreased fetal body weights and placental weights
  • Diarrhea

The evidence is obvious: Sucralose can be dangerous!

So, what does this mean to me? Well, I still think there is a lot of credibility in the Atkins approach to diet. I still don’t believe that anyone would be healthy or happy without some carbohydrates in their diet. I do think we all would be better off with far fewer carbohydrates. I still hold that modest amounts of grain is acceptable. I WANT a piece of toast and a bag of popcorn once in a while (yes, corn is a grain – not a vegetable). Not every day – but occasionally. That is a very real part of a healthy diet – when done with moderation. What’s moderate?  How about once or twice a month! That’s plenty of MODERATE for me.

I will eat more protein and good fat – and less carbohydrates and fewer grains. I refuse to use any artificial sweeteners. No, aspartame (that’s a killer in itself). No, saccharin. No sucralose (Splenda). The Atkins bars are gone for good (sweetened with sucralose) – and I’ll carefully search the labeled content of the foods I purchase.  Sadly, the products on the health food store shelves almost alwayscontain sucralose. Even “healthy people” demand that their snacks and bars and drinks be sweet – even if it can kill them!