Splenda

Splenda; a sucralose-based artificial sweetener
Splenda; a sucralose-based artificial sweetener

Splenda is the brand name of a sucralose-based artificial sweetener that tastes similar to sugar but reduces the calorie and carbohydrate intake from sugar (sucrose).

It was discovered in 1976 by British company Tate & Lyle and researchers at Queen Elizabeth College, University of London. It is produced through a process that starts with sugar and converts it into a low-calorie sweetener.

Available in granular and tablet form, the Splenda brand is hugely popular in both the UK and the United States, where it was approved for use as a nonnutritive sweetener in 1998 and introduced a year later.

In fact, Splenda is now the country’s favourite low-calorie artificial sweetener, with sales in 2006 totalling a staggering $212 million.

Benefits of Splenda

The main benefits of Splenda include:

Low-caloric value

While sucralose has no calories, Splenda products have a lower caloric content than sucrose (table sugar).

A single serving (1-gram packet) of Splenda provides 3.36 calories - less than a third (31%) of the calories of a single-serving (2.8-gram packet) of granulated sugar (10.8 calories).

In addition, Splenda contains a relatively small amount of the artificial sweetener sucralose, little of which is metabolized - nearly all of Splenda's caloric content comes from the ‘bulking agents’ dextrose (glucose) or maltodextrin that are included to provide needed volume and texture.

Sugar-like taste

Spenda has a clean, sugar-like taste without the bitter aftertaste of some other artificial/nonnutritive sweeteners, such as saccharin and acesulfame-K.

Heat stable

Unlike other artificial sweeteners, sucralose holds up to a very high heat of 450°F (232°C) and loses none of its sweetness.

This allows it to be used as a replacement for table sugar in cooking and baking, and there are Splenda products packaged specifically for this purpose.

The only cooking-related drawback is that it doesn’t produce browning or caramelise like table sugar.

Beneficial for diabetic people

Clinical studies have shown that Spenda does not affect blood glucose levels or insulin. This combined with its low-calorie and carbohydrate properties makes Splenda an ideal sugar substitute for people with diabetes.

It is worth bearing in mind that some Splenda products may contain sugars or other carbohydrates that should be evaluated individually.

Safety

Whilst Sucralose has had more than 20 years of research and over 100 scientific studies carried out to date, critics of the sweetener have pointed to relatively little research that has been carried out on humans.

Data from these studies has been reviewed by various regulatory, health and food safety authorities, including the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who concluded that sucralose is safe for consumption by all consumers, including children, pregnant women and people with diabetes - subject to an maximum daily intake of 9mg per kg of body weight (or roughly 0.6g for a 70kg person).

In addition, sucralose-containing products have never been required to carry any safety information or warning labels on their packaging.

Dextrose and maltodextrin, the other ingredients in Splenda, are listed as ‘generally recognised as safe’ because of their long history of safe consumption.

It is worth highlighting that a study on rats conducted by researchers from Duke University showed that sucralose consumption levels of between 1.1 mg/kg and 11 mg/kg, throughout a 12-week administration of Splenda, caused numerous adverse health effects, caused the rats taking sucralose to gain significantly more weight than the control group.

The researchers also noted that the rats which consumed Splenda experienced a reduction in beneficial gut bacteria. These effects have not been tested in humans, so whether the effect of this study is of more or less relevance to human health is as yet unknown.

Sucralose has been recognised as safe by the major health organisations but a number of health experts and researchers believe more research is required into the long term health effects. [99]

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