Splenda, what are you doing to me?!
October 21, 2008 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Is Splenda bad for you?

I have read articles both ways and I am still unclear. I am curious because I will use a few packets a day while at work in my tea or coffee and would like to get rid of this habit if it may lead to negative effects.

Just looking for some opinions that aren't funded or influenced by either side!
posted by jwfree to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There's always going to be conspiracy nuts out there. The consensus is that Splenda is pretty safe and the adverse effects found in studies are for amounts equivalent to 20,000 packets a month or so.

A few packets a day? I wouldnt sweat it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:41 PM on October 21, 2008

Everything has risk. The questions is whether this is an acceptable level of risk.

I don't have specific info on Splenda, but what you want to find is absolute statistics to describe the risk, not relative statistics. e.g. someone might say something like "it doubles the chances of getting this type of cancer" -- well that could mean the chances go from one in ten to one in five or it could mean from one in a million to one in half a million. Without more data, the range of possibilities is so large as to make the relative statement meaningless.
posted by winston at 12:44 PM on October 21, 2008

I never eat anything if it contains Splenda. The structure of sucralose: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sucralose looks like something I would actively avoid coming into contact with in the lab. Naturally my friends now refer to it as the death sugar, because they use it in cooking. There is no data to say that it is dangerous, and all seem to say that the molecule is just excreted and not absorbed.

I look at it though and see two alkylhalides, which are good alkylating agents. Alkylation of DNA is on way that DNA mutates to generate a cancerous cell. (Note not saying that it is all just one) I look at the compound and am actively against ingesting it at all. I would happily ingest aspartame, and possibly even saccharin, but honestly I prefer normal sucrose and fructose.
posted by koolkat at 1:00 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, what have you got to lose going with straight sugar? You get the same taste, none of the worry, and just a few extra calories and all the normal health risks that entails.
posted by phrontist at 1:27 PM on October 21, 2008

On the one hand you've got major industrialized nations' regulatory bodies approving it, a large array of scientific studies showing no negative effects unless consumed in absolutely absurd proportions, and organizations like CSPI saying it's the only "safe" artificial sweetner.

On the other hand, you have people telling you that the molecule looks scary.

So I'd say it's a toss-up.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:29 PM on October 21, 2008 [17 favorites]

As a counterpoint to phrontist, I prefer the taste of Splenda to sugar in just about everything. :)
posted by DWRoelands at 1:31 PM on October 21, 2008

koolkat, those are really hindered chlorides though, and an article linked to be the wiki implies that they're really bad leaving groups. Is this really a big deal? [Not Organiker---PChem]
posted by bonehead at 1:35 PM on October 21, 2008

(for the record, I'm very anti-splenda and don't think the FDA is completely trustworthy)

I ran a couple searches on pubmed for you - some studies have been done that might link them to migraine in those that are susceptible for that. But, current research is showing this as safe and the FDA has classified it as safe.

Here are some abstracts.

Headache. 2006 Sep;46(8):1303-4.
Department of Internal Medicine, Mercer University School of Medicine, Macon, GA, USA.
Sucralose (trichlorogalactosucrose, or better known as Splenda) is an artificial sweetener from native sucrose that was approved by the FDA on April 1, 1998 (April Fool's Day). This observation of a potential causal relationship between sucralose and migraines may be important for physicians to remember this can be a possible trigger during dietary history taking. Identifying further triggers for migraine headaches, in this case sucralose, may help alleviate some of the cost burden (through expensive medical therapy or missed work opportunity) as well as provide relief to migraineurs.

Food Chem Toxicol. 2000;38 Suppl 2:S123-9.
Repeated dose study of sucralose tolerance in human subjects.
Pine Court, Fairbourne, Cobham, Surrey KT11 2BT, UK.
Two tolerance studies were conducted in healthy human adult volunteers. The first study was an ascending dose study conducted in eight subjects, in which sucralose was administered at doses of 1, 2. 5, 5 and 10mg/kg at 48-hour intervals and followed by daily dosing at 2mg/kg for 3 days and 5mg/kg for 4 days. In the second study, subjects consumed either sucralose (n=77) or fructose (50g/day) (n=31) twice daily in single blind fashion. Sucralose dosage levels were 125mg/day for weeks 1-3, 250mg/day during weeks 4-7, and 500mg/day during weeks 8-12. No adverse experiences or clinically detectable effects were attributable to sucralose in either study. Similarly, haematology, serum biochemistry, urinalysis and EKG tracings were unaffected by sucralose administration. In the 13-week study, serial slit lamp ophthalmologic examination performed in a random subset of the study groups revealed no changes. Fasting and 2-hour post-dosing blood sucralose concentrations obtained daily during week 12 of the study revealed no rising trend for blood sucralose. Sucralose was well tolerated by human volunteers in single doses up to 10mg/kg/day and repeated doses increasing to 5mg/kg/day for 13 weeks. Based on these studies and the extensive animal safety database, there is no indication that adverse effects on human health would occur from frequent or long-term exposure to sucralose at the maximum anticipated levels of intake.

Ann Oncol. 2004 Oct;15(10):1460-5.
Artificial sweeteners--do they bear a carcinogenic risk?
Department of Internal Medicine I of the University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.
Artificial sweeteners are added to a wide variety of food, drinks, drugs and hygiene products. Since their introduction, the mass media have reported about potential cancer risks, which has contributed to undermine the public's sense of security. It can be assumed that every citizen of Western countries uses artificial sweeteners, knowingly or not. A cancer-inducing activity of one of these substances would mean a health risk to an entire population. We performed several PubMed searches of the National Library of Medicine for articles in English about artificial sweeteners. These articles included 'first generation' sweeteners such as saccharin, cyclamate and aspartame, as well as 'new generation' sweeteners such as acesulfame-K, sucralose, alitame and neotame. Epidemiological studies in humans did not find the bladder cancer-inducing effects of saccharin and cyclamate that had been reported from animal studies in rats. Despite some rather unscientific assumptions, there is no evidence that aspartame is carcinogenic. Case-control studies showed an elevated relative risk of 1.3 for heavy artificial sweetener use (no specific substances specified) of >1.7 g/day. For new generation sweeteners, it is too early to establish any epidemiological evidence about possible carcinogenic risks. As many artificial sweeteners are combined in today's products, the carcinogenic risk of a single substance is difficult to assess. However, according to the current literature, the possible risk of artificial sweeteners to induce cancer seems to be negligible.
posted by Craig at 2:06 PM on October 21, 2008

It is bad for me, can't say if it will be bad for you.

Tried to switch from sugar to Splenda in all things possible and my digestive system did not, um, tolerate it well. At first, OK, but over time it got worse and worse. Its fine on occassion but I now avoid it whenever possible.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:35 PM on October 21, 2008

This new study suggests bad.
posted by susanvance at 3:47 PM on October 21, 2008

My sister has suffered from gastrointestinal issues for a couple of years and has undergone tests for seemingly everything under the sun to figure out the culprit. Upon a suggestions from a friend, she stopped using the three packets of Splenda a day that she was putting in coffee and tea a few weeks ago. Her stomach is feeling just fine now (though she's still getting some final tests done).
posted by medeine at 3:55 PM on October 21, 2008

I've known people who have had GI issues from Splenda, too. Me, I just hate the taste of the stuff.
posted by desuetude at 4:56 PM on October 21, 2008

Best answer: I am not a medical scientist. Although results are mixed, you might do well to be reminded that the long-term effects have not yet been observed and studied. Some chemicals take ten years or more to cause cancer.
posted by MaxK at 5:02 PM on October 21, 2008

Best answer: Anything in great quanity is bad for you. All sweeteners are chemicals. I like honey but then they say it is not good for you either.
posted by bjgeiger at 6:17 PM on October 21, 2008

Another anecdotal data point - I eat Splenda, I just have to be careful about how much I consume else I get light headaches. It happens even if I don't know there's Splenda in something, so I'm mostly sure it's not psychosomatic.

If you feel fine and don't mind the taste, I wouldn't worry about it. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger! (Or fucks you up for a very long time, I can never remember which.)
posted by truex at 7:48 PM on October 21, 2008

IMO it's absolute poison and sugar is by far the lesser of two evils. Unless of course I was Diabetic (which could be likely given the amount of them in my family)... but there are other options I'll be exploring I think! Including just straight out abstinence.

Plus it tastes like crap. Do not ever use it (meaning splenda specifically) in meringue/pavlova! If you ever wondered what fail actually tastes like... that would be it.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 8:13 PM on October 21, 2008

Does it have to be Splenda? I believe that Xylitol has been shown to be good for you.
posted by Not Supplied at 6:17 AM on October 22, 2008

Thanks for the link susanvance, I hadn't seen this new article -- though, the study itself is way beyond me. I've posted the abstract for you smart people out there. Here is another article about the same study.

J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2008;71(21):1415-29.Click here to read Links
Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats.
Abou-Donia MB, El-Masry EM, Abdel-Rahman AA, McLendon RE, Schiffman SS.

Splenda is comprised of the high-potency artificial sweetener sucralose (1.1%) and the fillers maltodextrin and glucose. Splenda was administered by oral gavage at 100, 300, 500, or 1000 mg/kg to male Sprague-Dawley rats for 12-wk, during which fecal samples were collected weekly for bacterial analysis and measurement of fecal pH. After 12-wk, half of the animals from each treatment group were sacrificed to determine the intestinal expression of the membrane efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and the cytochrome P-450 (CYP) metabolism system by Western blot. The remaining animals were allowed to recover for an additional 12-wk, and further assessments of fecal microflora, fecal pH, and expression of P-gp and CYP were determined. At the end of the 12-wk treatment period, the numbers of total anaerobes, bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, Bacteroides, clostridia, and total aerobic bacteria were significantly decreased; however, there was no significant treatment effect on enterobacteria. Splenda also increased fecal pH and enhanced the expression of P-gp by 2.43-fold, CYP3A4 by 2.51-fold, and CYP2D1 by 3.49-fold. Following the 12-wk recovery period, only the total anaerobes and bifidobacteria remained significantly depressed, whereas pH values, P-gp, and CYP3A4 and CYP2D1 remained elevated. These changes occurred at Splenda dosages that contained sucralose at 1.1-11 mg/kg (the US FDA Acceptable Daily Intake for sucralose is 5 mg/kg). Evidence indicates that a 12-wk administration of Splenda exerted numerous adverse effects, including (1) reduction in beneficial fecal microflora, (2) increased fecal pH, and (3) enhanced expression levels of P-gp, CYP3A4, and CYP2D1, which are known to limit the bioavailability of orally administered drugs.
posted by Craig at 9:22 AM on October 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

All sweeteners are chemicals.

Everything is chemicals.
posted by dmd at 5:16 PM on October 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

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