Splenda is the brand name for sucralose, a nonnutritive sweetener, that's used in a variety of foods and beverages instead of sugar. Many soft drinks sweetened with Splenda are available to help you curb your sugar intake for calorie control and health reasons.
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Major manufacturers, including Pepsi and Coca-Cola, have embraced Splenda and use it in a number of their products. Smaller producers also use Splenda for sweetening their drinks.
Splenda, or sucralose, is present in several major soft drinks, including some made by Pepsi and Coca-Cola.
What Is Splenda?
Splenda, or sucralose, is made during a chemical process in which three hydrogen-oxygen groups are replaced with chlorine atoms. The result is a sweetener that tastes like sugar but is about 600 times sweeter. Splenda does not occur in nature, so it's not a "natural" product. The body doesn't metabolize sucralose, so it has no calories. It also has no effect on your blood sugar and contains no vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients or antioxidants that support a healthy body.
Splenda is used in a variety of foods and drinks, including desserts, chewing gum, ice cream and soft drinks. It remains sweet even when subject to intense heat and during long-term storage, so it's an attractive ingredient for at-home baking and commercial products.
Is Splenda Safe?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved sucralose as a nonnutritive sweetener in a variety of foods. According to the organization, more than 110 safety studies reviewed by the FDA proved the safety of using sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener for food and beverages.
A recent meta-analysis that reviewed dozens of studies from around the world and was published in Nutrition and Cancer in November 2016 confirmed that sucralose doesn't have carcinogenic effects. This is true even if you were to expose yourself to levels that are far greater than anticipated "normal" levels. You can consume a lot of the product without experiencing any health harm.
The American Pregnancy Association affirms that Splenda is safe, even for pregnant women and for those who are breastfeeding. Always check with your doctor about the best foods and beverages to consume during pregnancy, however.
In August 2017, Food and Chemical Toxicology published another review of the literature addressing the safety of the use of sucralose. This updated review noted that the intake of sucralose in all members of the population are well below the acceptable daily intake and that it's completely safe for use as a noncaloric sugar alternative.
What’s Wrong With Sugary Drinks?
Soft drinks are any beverage with added sugar or other sweeteners. Sometimes you'll hear them referred to as sugar-sweetened beverages. Included in the "soft drink" category are:
- Energy drinks
- Soda or pop
- Fruit punch
- Lemonade and other fruit "ades"
- Sports drinks
The Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health reports that soft drinks are the largest source of calories and added sugar in the American diet. Sugary drinks are associated with the obesity epidemic, especially in children. This explains why a nonsugar sweetening alternative, such as Splenda, is an attractive product. It helps consumers save on calories and reduce sugar consumption.
Read more: A Meal Plan for Obesity
Soft Drinks Sweetened With Splenda
Pepsi and Coca-Cola are major companies that use Splenda is some of their drinks. Many of their products, including Diet Pepsi and Sprite Zero, still contain other nonnutritive sweeteners such as aspartame, however. Read labels to be sure what you're getting if you're trying to avoid certain ingredients.
Pepsi soft drink products containing Splenda include Pepsi with Splenda, Aquafina flavored waters and Brisk teas and fruit-blend drinks. Caffeine-free and regular Diet Mountain Dew also contain Splenda. The Mountain Dew products also contain aspartame.
Diet Lipton teas, Gatorade G2 and Zero products, Propel and Pure Leaf diet iced teas are also made by Pepsico and include Splenda. The Mountain Dew line of energy drinks such as Kickstart also include Splenda.
At the Coca-Cola Company, drinks containing sucralose — or Splenda — include Diet Coke with Splenda, Minute Maid Sparkling fruit-flavored drinks, PowerAde Zero and Dasani flavored waters.
Coca-Cola explains that its use of Splenda is to help people reduce their sugar intake while still enjoying the great flavors of fully sweetened drinks.
Smaller drink companies that use sucralose as a sweetener include Hansen's. The company, which began in California, markets itself as a natural soda maker, using only cane sugar for sweetening. All of their diet drinks contain a combination of sucralose and acesulfame potassium for sweetening.
Read more: Splenda vs. Stevia
Splenda and Weight Loss
Sometimes, people choose a drink like Diet Pepsi with Splenda to avoid the calories that come with the sugar-sweetened version. A can of regular soda contains about 150 calories; soft drinks sweetened with Splenda have 0 calories.
But research shows that if you're looking to lose weight, low-calorie sweeteners don't really seem to have an impact. A September 2014 meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that observational studies indicated no association between low-calorie sweetener intake and body weight or composition. But, randomized controlled trials show that a potential modest weight loss can result from using low-calorie sweeteners such as Splenda.
Overall, Splenda may help you stick to a low-calorie weight-loss plan, but shouldn't be considered your sole strategy. Weight loss occurs when you eat fewer calories than you burn, so eat a healthy diet and get plenty of physical activity.
Reduced Sugar Intake
Drinking soft drinks sweetened with Splenda helps you keep your sugar intake to a healthy level. According to American Heart Association recommendations, women should try to stick to 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day and men just 9 teaspoons. A 12-ounce can of sugar-sweetened soda can have up to 37 grams per serving — that's 9 teaspoons in just the drink alone.
Splenda-sweetened drinks have 0 grams of sugar, so you don't have to worry about your beverages contributing to your daily sugar intake.
- Coca-Cola Co.: "Does the Coca-Cola Company Have Drinks With Sucralose?"
- Pepsico: "The Facts About Your Favorite Beverages"
- International Food Information Council Foundation: "What Is Sucralose?"
- Hansen Beverage: "Find Your Flavor"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Additional Information About High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for Use in Food in the United States"
- Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health: "Sugary Drinks"
- Nutrition and Cancer: "Sucralose Non-Carcinogenicity: A Review of the Scientific and Regulatory Rationale"
- Sucralose.org: "FAQs"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Body Weight and Composition: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials and Prospective Cohort Studies"
- American Pregnancy Association: "Artificial Sweeteners and Pregnancy"
- Food and Chemical Toxicology: "Critical Review of the Current Literature on the Safety of Sucralose"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Beverages, Carbonated, Cola, Regular"
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars"