If you are concerned about your sugar intake, you may find yourself reaching for an artificial sweetener such as Splenda. A product of McNeil Nutritionals, L.L.C., Splenda is a leading competitor in a chemically engineered market of sweeteners that includes saccharine and aspartame. There is increased speculation that Splenda may aggravate the kidneys and introduce toxins to other parts of the body. Scientific studies, however, have yet to demonstrate any toxic effects as of publication.
What is Splenda?
Although Splenda is an artificial sweetener, its origin is natural. Splenda is sucralose, a chlorocarbon made from sucrose, or table sugar, that is crystalline in nature and water-soluble. During manufacturing, the sucrose undergoes a chemical reaction that forms chlorine and carbon atoms that bond together to form chlorocarbon molecules. Although Splenda has a natural base, the chemical process results in an artificial chemical compound, which according to a report from Elmhurst College, is approximately 600 times sweeter than natural sugar.
The chemical composition of Splenda and its effect on the human body is a matter of controversy. Animal testing and the results lead some to believe that the artificial sweetener is a health hazard, specifically to the kidneys. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, sucralose testing in rat pups showed evidence of a kidney weight increase, but not enough to render the outcome toxic. Tests in adult females produced signs of excess calcium in the kidneys, or nephrocalcinosis, but because rats are prone to calcification, such findings are irrelevant and not a matter of concern for humans.
Despite the controversy surrounding Splenda, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has provided Splenda with its seal of approval. The approval followed the reviews of approximately 100 studies, which revealed no link between sucralose and health risks. According to the National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet, Splenda received approval as a tabletop sweetener in 1998. In 1999, the FDA approved Splenda as an all-purpose sweetener.
The Bottom Line
Since it is FDA-approved, the use of Splenda as sweetener is a personal choice. In light of its chlorine content of Splenda and the fear of metabolic toxicity resulting in kidney disease and cancer, there is an outcry from certain advocate groups that further testing is necessary. According to the University of California research website, eScholarship, long-term human studies are limited -- most lasting no longer than 13 weeks. Although Splenda is deemed safe for human consumption, the FDA suggests introducing Splenda to your body cautiously and seeking medical intervention if any unpleasant side effects result.
- Elmhurst College: Sucralose or Splenda
- Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services: Food Additives Permitted for Direct Addition to Food for Human Consumption; Sucralose
- National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet: Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer
- University of California: Splenda - A Safe and Sweet Alternative to Sugar