Splenda: Super Sweetner of Health Hazard?

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Biology 103

2005 Second Paper

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Splenda: Super Sweetner of Health Hazard?

Sara Koff

Splenda, best known for its marketing logo, "made from sugar so it tastes like sugar,' has taken the sweetener industry by storm. Splenda has become the nations number one selling artificial sweetener in a very short period of time(2).

Splenda is the brand name for the ingredient sucralose. It is made through a multi-step process that starts with sugar and converts it to a no calorie, non-carbohydrate sweetener. The process selectively replaces three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule with three chlorine atoms. In the case of sucralose, the addition of chlorine converts sucrose to sucralose, which is essentially inert. The result is a stable sweetener that tastes like sugar, but without sugar's calories. After consumption, sucralose passes through the body without being broken down for energy, so it has no calories, and the body does not recognize it as a carbohydrate (1).

There is no question that sucralose (Splenda) starts off as a sugar molecule, it is what goes on in the factory that is concerning(2). Sucralose is a synthetic chemical that was originally cooked up in a laboratory. In the five step patented process of making sucralose, three chlorine molecules are added to a sucrose or sugar molecule. A sucrose molecule is a disaccharide that contains two single sugars bound together; glucose and fructose. Samantha Heller, MS, RD, says, "Saying Splenda is made from sugar is like taking the round wheels off a car and putting on square wheels. Is it still a car? Yes. But can it still perform like a car? No -- and what's more we don't know what's going to happen when people try to 'drive it' cross country," (4)

The chemical process to make sucralose alters the chemical composition of the sugar so much that it is somehow converted to a fructo-galactose molecule. This type of sugar molecule does not occur in nature and therefore your body does not possess the ability to properly metabolize it. It is not that Splenda is naturally zero calories. If your body had the capacity to metabolize it then it would no longer has zero calories(4).

While all these complex chemical processes may not matter much to your taste buds, experts say it takes on a new and more important meaning as Splenda will begin to be included in many different products including diet soda and various baked goods. The biggest fear is that sucralose will be everywhere and used in everything when people still are not aware of what they are and are not getting. It is also important to note that artificial sweeteners are a relatively new invention and that there is no data as to how they interact with each other especially in large amounts(2).

So is Splenda safe? The truth is we don't know yet. Not only are we unaware of the long term affects of artificial sweeteners, research in animals have shown that sucralose can cause problems. These include an enlarged liver and kidneys, reduced growth rate, decreased red blood cell count and decreased fetal body weights(3). So the reality is that we are the guinea pigs for Splenda.

Observational evidence shows that there are side effects of Splenda, including skin rashes/flushing, panic-like agitation, dizziness and numbness, diarrhea, muscle aches, headaches, intestinal cramping, bladder issues, and stomach pain. Most of these observations have been found in people believed to have an allergy or sensitivity to sucralose. But no one can say exactly to what degree Splenda is affecting the rest of us(2).

1) http://www.splenda.com/

2) http://www.mercola.com/2000/dec/3/sucralose_dangers.htm

3) http://www.womentowomen.com/LIBsplenda.asp

4) http://www.webmd.com/content/Article/100/105877.htm

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