Thursday, August 15, 2013

Myths I Used To Believe: Splenda is Better Than Sugar

OK, here I go.  I have truthfully been putting off this research because I knew it would lead me to look into sugar in general and ultimately convict me to severely reduce our family's intake.  And quite frankly, I LOVE sugar!  Hello my name is Kristin and I'm addicted to sweets.  I'm not unlike most people in this aspect.

We have been told that sugar is bad for us.  And in fact it is.  Over indulgence of sugar is the biggest reason for our obesity problems here in the US.  Sugar has absolutely no nutritional value and adds unnecessary empty calories to our diet that take away from us eating healthy foods.  So what is the solution?  Well it should be to reduce our sweets intake but who wants to do that?  Enter artificial sweeteners.  First there was Sweet N Low which is <eek!> saccharin. Next we have Equal and NutraSweet which is <gasp!> aspartame. Then there was Splenda that made it's way to the market in 1998 which is sucrolose - supposedly good for us.

This was the case I used to buy at Sam's club.  We used Splenda in tea, coffee, Koolaid, and some cooking reciepes.  We also bought the bags of "sugar equivalent" to bake with.

Why I thought Splenda was good:

  • It is derived from sugar.  Their slogan says it all, "Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar." 
  • It has zero calories
  • It makes things taste sweeter than even sugar so I used less
  • It has no carbs
  • It's a sweetener with No Aspartame (which I had heard was very bad for me)
  • It is VERY popular in diet circles - especially Weight Watchers where it was zero points values

What I've learned:

Sucrolose (Splenda) is NOT the same as sucrose (sugar) 

Sucrolose may have started as sugar but by the time it is chemically altered it is anything BUT a natural product.  The result is a completely different molecular structure that is processed very differently in our bodies than regular sugar.   I read one funny comparison that said "Carbon monoxide is made from oxygen.  It's like a breath of fresh air!"  Sounds ridiculous right?  Yet that is what the marketers of  Splenda want you to believe. 

Also, sucrolose is not the only ingredient present.  It also contains dextrose and maltodextrin, ingredients found in most processed foods.

Sucrolose is not entirely safe for consumption

According to the Center For Science in The Public Interest which rates food additives according to their safety, sucrolose has been downgraded from "safe" to "caution."  A "caution" rating means it may pose a health risk and needs to be better tested.  It should be avoided.  The common theme on all the sites I browsed was that there simply isn't enough research out there for long term effects on us.  This is exactly how aspartame started out when the FDA went ahead and approved it before knowing about any of the side effects.  Obviously aspartame is still used today in spite of those harmful effects.  It certainly makes me less trusting of the FDA which is supposed to be monitoring the safety of our food consumption.
Splenda IS better than aspartame but not by much.

Sucrolose may cause side effects in some people

I personally have not noticed these effects in the past or at least I did not associate them with the consumption of Splenda.  But there are some people that are more effected by it than others.  Here is a list of some of them.
  • migraines
  • dizziness
  • intestinal cramping
  • rashes
  • acne
  • headaches
  • bloating
  • chest pain
  • tinnitus
  • gum bleeding
Artificial Sweeteners, including Splenda, trick the brain

Regular intake of artificial sweeteners effects our bodies natural ability to monitor calorie intake. In a study done on rats, it was shown that the rats that were fed drinks with artificial sweeteners ended up eating MORE food and consuming more calories than the rats who had a regular sugary drink.  I can attest to this in my own experience.  It does seem that the more addicted to sweets I am, (and my previous Diet Coke addiction) the more I want to eat in general.  This goes for ANY artificial sweetener.  To find out more on this study and how our bodies get tricked, check out THIS link.

Splenda is not recommended for children

This is not news to me.  Our pediatrician in Kansas City told us to never feed our kids anything with Splenda in it.  We used to give the kids "juice" that was Koolaid I made with Splenda.  After that doctor's visit and warning I switched to Crystal Light until I realized that was worse - it contained aspartame.  Real fruit juice had so many calories in it (and TONS of sugar), I just couldn't see why it was healthier for our kids.  But at least there are some nutrients in organic real fruit juice.  That is why today, juice is a special treat usually only offered to them by grandparents or aunts and uncles.  Again, there is simply not enough evidence about the long term use of sucrolose, so why chance it with my kids?

Not really "ideal" for the whole family...

So Splenda is NOT good for me.  What about sugar?  Should I be buying "natural sugar."  I have replaced our white sugar with raw turbinado sugar or organic cane sugar but is it actually better for us?  THIS SITE does a phenomenal job at describing the differences in the sugars we buy from the grocery store.  When it comes down to it, there simply aren't many nutrients to be found in even the "natural" sugars sold out there.  It is still full of empty calories BUT it IS a natural product which makes it a much better option for sweetening things than any artificial sweetener made in a lab.  

This is the sugar I buy.  I have found it to be reasonably priced at Walmart.  It is made from non-GMO sugar cane and still has some of the molasses in it so it has a brown color.  I don't really notice the color though until I make homemade lemonade and it ends up being on the tan side!

Now that we've gotten rid of the artificial sweeteners in our diet, what's next?  Trying to reduce our overall sugar intake as a family.  I would love to move towards using more local honey to sweeten and bake with instead of sugar when possible.  I've also heard good things about the stevia plant and the benefits of sweetening things with it.  

I am certainly not perfect though... we still bribe - I mean encourage our kids with candy prizes such as Skittles and Star bursts!  I'm not ready to switch that out just yet as it is pretty effective currently!


  1. Nice post! This is great information. After a longterm love affair with diet soda, I now avoid all artificial sweeteners. Now I've seen stevia show up in some products in health food aisles...Want to look into it and make that your next post?

  2. Thanks Trisha! I don't know a lot about Stevia yet but I do want to research it some more. Maybe something to post about for the future for sure.