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Is sucralose safe?

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, we have a “sweet” question from an HSI member named Sean who recently sent this e-mail: “A number of products use sucralose as a sugar substitute. They claim that the products are all natural. Is sucralose as bad as other sweetners?”

I asked HSI Panelist, Allan Spreen, M.D., for his take on this one, and here’s what he had to say:

“Tough question. Robert Atkins, M.D. (of the high-protein diet revolution), uses Sucralose almost exclusively. I certainly consider it superior to aspartame (Nutra-Sweet, etc.), which is known to break down into methyl alcohol and formaldehyde in the presence of heat with all sorts of potential symptoms as a result.

“I do not, under any circumstances, consider the sweetener ‘all natural’ (like stevia is), or even ‘any natural’. The stuff is patented and involves taking sugar molecules and treating them with (gulp) chlorine.

“The argument is that the chlorine is not absorbed at all, so therefore the agent is harmless. There have since been reports of up to 30% being absorbed and symptoms being caused. I don’t really know what percentage, if any, is absorbed (though I bet it’s higher than zero). However, I don’t trust the stuff, though it may have less after-taste than stevia.”

Sucralose is a relatively new sweetener – it was only approved for use in the U.S. in 1998. So it will be awhile before we see any studies about the long-range effects of sucralose use. But I’ll keep an eye out and will let you know as soon as I find something.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute