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The Dangers of Splenda

Thanks to the Atkins and other low-carb diets, refined white sugar has a well-deserved bad name. But in our quest to keep satiating our collective sweet tooth, we’ve created a myriad of fake, artificial sweeteners.

Most of us know to stay away from those. The dangers of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners have been widely circulated.

But there’s one sweetener out there that’s marketed as a “natural” alternative to sugar which is anything but — Splenda. Also known as “sucralose” this aberration of chemical engineering is an experimental insecticide turned sweetener. I kid you not.

For the complete run down on the evils of Splenda, I encourage you to watch the 10 minute video below. It’s a crazy, fascinating story about how an insecticidal concoction became transformed into one of America’s most popular alternative “natural” sweeteners. And hopefully, it will make you toss the stuff out your kitchen.

A good rule of thumb: Only eat food that your great grandmother would have recognized as food. Splenda is a new, manufactured, edible sugar-like substance created in laboratories. It is not food.

When I “need” a sweetener, I turn to natural sweeteners like raw honey, rapadura, and maple syrup.  Even those I use in severe moderation because I’m intentionally trying to lower my family’s hyperactive sweet craving.

This post is part of the Fight Back Fridays carnival of renegade food links. For other tips, anecdotes, and recipes from lovers of Real Food, go check it out!

(h/t to Augie at The Journal of Whole Food and Nutritional Health for the video, and Photo by Bukowsky18)
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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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27 Responses to The Dangers of Splenda
  1. Local Nourishment
    March 19, 2009 | 10:43 pm

    I’m starting to hear about a little packeted manufactured sweetener “based on stevia.” Stevia I know. This stuff I don’t. Saying this stuff is “based on stevia” makes me nervous. It sounds too much like Nutrasweet’s line “made from sugar.” I’ll take my honey raw, fair trade and organic, thanks.

  2. KristenM
    March 20, 2009 | 12:05 am

    Local Nourishment — Yes, there’s a new sweetener out that Coke and others will be adding to their beverages called Truvia which is “based on stevia.” I also distrust the idea of it just on principle, but I haven’t actually researched it yet.

  3. Motherhen68
    March 20, 2009 | 10:51 am

    I looked at the Truvia package last week @ the store and one packet has 3grams of carbs. Not really a “sugar free alternative” for me. I mean, seriously, 3 cups of coffee w/one packet of Truvia is 9 carbs, which is more than I want to eat/drink in one meal.

    We used Splenda last year while beginning low carb. In December, I went “sweet free”, which is no artificial sweeteners as well as no natural sweeteners. It was a bit of an adjustment the first week or so. Especially since it was football season and commercial after commercial for Diet Dr. Pepper was causing cravings. Now, it’s no big deal not to have a sweetener in my drinks. I am a bit worried about the Kombucha that I’ll be drinking next week, but I’m going to believe that most of the sugar has fermented out (like yogurt) and the carbs won’t cause me to gain weight. It’d be a big bummer if it did.

    Motherhen68

  4. KristenM
    March 20, 2009 | 11:10 am

    Motherhen68 — One way to ensure your Kombucha has fewer sugars left is to ferment it longer. Not only does this usually result in a more healthful beverage (more beneficial acids created), but it will also cut down on whatever sugar remains. Fair warning: this will make the beverage quite tart. To figure out just how tart you can stand it, I recommend tasting it with a straw.

  5. Motherhen68
    March 20, 2009 | 3:18 pm

    Thanks Kristen. I was actually thinking of letting 1/2 the batch go a little longer and putting the other half to ferment w/the fruit juice like you do and letting the kids drink that. It’ll be less tart for them. Since cutting out the sugar, I find I can handle things that aren’t sweet so much easier than before. It’s amazing what tastes good when you’re not eating mostly sugar.

    Motherhen68

  6. Lori
    March 20, 2009 | 5:21 pm

    I used Spenda when it first came out and then quickly swore it off. Aside from not wanting chemicals it makes me feel bad, headache and all that. I can tell immediately if I’ve accidently had something with it in it that I wasn’t aware of.

    I’m not a big fan of Truvia either. Here is an article from the Center for Science In the Public Interest that may help you begin your research. Since the article the FDA did approve it as GRAS, hence the release of Truvia and massive add campaign. I did a post about it a while back. http://www.cspinet.org/new/200808281.html

    Lori

  7. Nourished Kitchen
    March 23, 2009 | 5:24 pm

    I don’t know why anyone would want to use that stuff – the flavor is terrible let alone the questionable health effects of such a chemically altered “food.”

    Nourished Kitchen

  8. bobby0512
    March 24, 2009 | 6:48 am

    Don’t use Splenda at all!

    I like to say sucralose, not Splenda, because that is what Splenda is. And it is in a lot of stuff Sadly, the package doesn’t have to say Splenda, or diet, to have sucralose in it. You have to read labels. So, you might still be using it and don’t even know it!

    A lot of people, including myself, have gotten/are getting sick from it.

    Sucralose is poison. It ruined five years of my life. I had a laundry list of medical problems while taking it. I went to several doctors. I had a dozen different tests. I was told that I had a number of different problems. I was on different medication for many years.

    The slogan, “Made from sugar…” is very misleading. Splenda might be made from sugar, but it is far from sugar. The resulting chemical is a class of chemicals called organochloride. Organochlorides are typically poisonous.

    carbon monoxide – made from oxygen so its like a breath of fresh air.

  9. Johnny
    March 24, 2009 | 9:24 am

    Arg! I have such issues with artificial sweeteners. The public has been misled. Whoever said that chemically altered unnatural substances are healthier than the real thing? Same goes for margarine. I cut out sweetners about 2 months ago. Prior to that, i had daily headaches everyday at 3pm. I thought it was my morning coffee. i still have my morning coffee but now drink it black, and miraculously no longer have migraines.

    PS love the blog – can’t wait to explore!

    Johnny

  10. KristenM
    March 24, 2009 | 9:53 am

    Johnny — Cutting out sweeteners is definitely the way to go.

  11. Warren
    March 26, 2009 | 8:34 am

    I use liquid Stevia in some cooking and the occasional cup of coffee. I think raw honey or maple syrup are fine for me only if i’m doing a maintenance diet but not during weight loss. Americans have such a sweet tooth it scares me. I gave some customers ( i work in a grocery store) a sample of a blood orange that I thought tasted fairly sweet, and they both made sour faces and claimed the fruit was “bad” because it didn’t taste like candy. I let myself have some diet soda last night and I think I find it just as gross as the real thing now. Good riddance!

  12. Rob O.
    March 27, 2009 | 9:31 am

    I’m trying to lessen my dependence on Splenda, having used it to wean myself mostly off of even worse sweeteners. More than anything else, I believe that Splenda’s biggest problem is that while it may be a low-carb solution, it doesn’t do anything to lessen your cravings for sweetened foods, which is the root problem. It’s a band-aid, not a remedy.

    But dangit, I just can’t handle (enjoy) non-sweetened coffee…

    I’ve been hearing some buzz about agave syrup for sweetening. Know anything about that?

    Rob O.

  13. Hayley
    January 7, 2010 | 10:22 pm

    Ok, I got a little ways into the video, and here are my first two observations. Not all insecticides are chemical poisons, many are physical, meaning they are meant to essentially choke the bug. It is the size of the particle that is dangerous, to a tiny bug, so saying it is related to insecticide therefore it is poison it not good logic (I know that’s not quite what he’s saying, but it proves that you need to read further that “insecticide” to prove that something is poison). Second, he said chlorine and chloride are different, they are not. The last element in a chemical compound always gets -ide put on the end, so carbon dioxide is carbon + di- (2) +oxygen + -ide. That has absolutely nothing to do with what “kind” of chlorine is used. Not even a tiny bit.

    Also, to say that a piece of a molecule is poison, therefore the whole thing is bad doesn’t work either. For example CO2 is carbon dioxide, the air we breath out and plants breath in, and CO is carbon monoxide, a poison. Scientists don’t entirely understand why, but molecules generally bear no resemblance to their elements and molecules containing the same elements are not the same. So, relating this compound to a known poison that has some similarities at a molecular level is proof of nothing. (I do, however, for this same reason agree that saying it came from sugar makes it safe.)

    I don’t entirely want shoot down what he is saying, I just want to point out that his explanation is weak at best, and people should do more research before making a decision. I think it’s a shame that people fighting for natural foods are losing respect because of bad science.

    • Karley
      June 7, 2010 | 6:07 pm

      Hayley, thanks for your take on this.

      I found this video pretty much unwatchable, largely due to the lack of any scientific evidence being presented and ignorance of the presenter. But, I’m very interested in learning about the downsides of sucralose, as a family member consumes a great deal of it.

      Does anybody have any links to actual scientific studies or recognized authorities covering the dangers of this stuff, rather than a video of some dude in a hat expounding? Thanks in advance!

  14. HerbalJunky
    March 29, 2010 | 12:22 pm

    As soon as I heard that splenda contains aspertame I stopped using it. In fact Stevia seemed to be a great choice. Its all natural zero calories, zero glycemic index and zero carbohydrates. Moreover stevia with inulin fibre helps maintain good cholesterol level.

    HerbalJunky

    • meghan
      April 8, 2013 | 11:59 am

      um, splenda doesn’t contain aspartame. it’s sucralose. splenda is a brand name of sucralose.

  15. BeeKeeperTim
    May 28, 2010 | 6:04 am

    Well I’m glad someone is speaking out on this! I couldn’t agree more on the Stevia discussion some of you have posted. The jury is still out in my mind.
    One word of caution to add to what Kristen has already said about “natural sweeteners” as I think today everyone needs to be even more careful to educate themselves on EXACTLY what they are buying natural or not.
    As a beekeeper I know there are a lot of honey out there called “raw honey” or “organic honey” which are just as processed and unhealthy as table sugar. Raw honey can be VERY good for you and has been scientifically shown to treat several health issues but it must be truly raw meaning it has been spun from the comb and put in a jar PERIOD!
    The pasteurization process and the straining process conducted by most honey producers removes goodies like pollen and propolis which support immune health and can even be a solid treament for allergy sufferers. The heat associated with pasteurization destroys both the flavor and the natural antioxidant/antibiotic properties of honey. If you’re interested visit this blog for more details!

  16. Nicole
    October 18, 2010 | 3:21 pm

    You said it perfectly, and this is something that I definitely believe: “Only eat food that your great grandmother would have recognized as food.” Thank you for standing up for us!

  17. Nan
    December 4, 2010 | 2:05 pm

    Yup, made from sugar….and cyanide is made from almonds.

  18. Erin
    June 27, 2011 | 9:55 pm

    Yeah, I’d rather stay away from splenda. I prefer to use SweetLeaf Stevia Sweetener–both powder and the flavored liquids. Of course it helps that I work for wisdom natural Brands, the makers of SweetLeaf, so it’s easy for me to get products. (0 calories, 0 carbs, and 0 glycemic index, and inulin fiber in the powder)

    I tried the stevia herbal tea for the first time because I think I had food poisoning and it did seem to help soothe my stomach! I didn’t need to ingest anything else!

  19. Elias Zafrani
    September 21, 2011 | 11:21 am

    What you recommend for type II diabetics?
    I have been fooled with Splenda because I belived that is better than aspartame.
    At supermarkets there are no diet soft drinks or candies without aspartame or Splenda.
    If i take natural honey it will increase my blod sugar level.
    How can we find foods that contains appropiate sweeteners for diabetics?

  20. KClay
    October 7, 2011 | 9:19 am

    I have also read that Splenda is processed sugar that they add chlorine to the sugar, and personally I am allergic to chlorine. I had no idea, but I suffer from an auto-immune disorder similar to lupus and when I cut Splenda from my diet my symptoms almost completely cleared up. It is poison for my system. I went back to Turbinado sugar and agave. They are natural and minimally processed, and I just use sparingly.

  21. joanne minuete
    January 10, 2012 | 2:06 pm

    so what do diabetics do for sweeteners? I am not about to ferment anything for my diabetic husband who will be on dialysis soon and I will be doing the dialysis, not to mention everything else I have had to take on since he is getting more disabled and tired. Plus, having to take care of my 97 yr old mother

  22. MBluhm
    July 15, 2012 | 2:34 pm

    I have found out by personal experience that Stevia may cause oral allergy syndrome. If you are allergic to ragweed,as I am, there is a possibility you may have an oral allergic reaction to stevia. I was using stevia in tea and within the first week my throat became itchy and and had the sensation of a lump in my throat. Stevia was the only different thing in my diet, so I researched ‘stevia allergy’ and found the info on line. Upon stopping it my throat cleared in a couple of days.

    • meghan
      April 8, 2013 | 12:03 pm

      I’m absolutely allergic to stevia. small amounts of it made me feel kinda “funny,” but it wasn’t until I chugged a protein shake made with coconut milk sweetened with stevia did I realize I was really allergic. I didn’t go into anaphylactic shock or anything, but I felt AWFUL for the rest of the day- a very strange nausea, itchy mouth and throat, just awful.

  23. Claire
    December 31, 2012 | 10:03 pm

    Could you please add a new link to the video? It says that the video no longer exists, and I would love to know more about splenda. :)

  24. Amanda
    March 28, 2013 | 2:24 pm

    Been on your site for ten minutes and im enthralled…thank you so much for bringing these dirty little dark FDA secrets to Light…..it amazes me how much our food and drug administration LIE to us..sells us garbage that is KILLING us…our Standard American Diet is S.A.D. indeed…take back your families health from a GOVERNMENT that is stealing it away under the guise of goodness…KNOWLEDGE IS POWER…however knowledge without action is as good as having no knowledge at all…

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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