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Sucralose

  • Our verdict: 3 - watch out
  • Origin: It is produced synthetically and does not come from natural sources.

Sucralose is a zero‑calorie artificial sweetener commonly used as a sugar substitute. It is about 600 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar) and is known for its stability under heat and across a wide range of pH levels, making it suitable for various food and beverage applications. Sucralose is marketed under the brand name Splenda and is widely used in products ranging from soft drinks to baked goods.

Origin

Sucralose is of artificial origin, created through a multi‑step chemical process. It begins with sucrose, which undergoes selective chlorination, replacing three hydroxyl groups with chlorine atoms. This modification creates a stable, intensely sweet compound that the body does not metabolize for energy, thus providing sweetness without calories.

Characteristics

Sucralose is utilized in the food industry for several reasons, including:

  • High Sweetness Intensity: Approximately 600 times sweeter than sugar, requiring very small amounts to achieve desired sweetness.
  • Zero Calories: Does not contribute to caloric intake, making it a popular choice for weight management and diabetic‑friendly products.
  • pH Stability: Maintains its properties in both acidic and alkaline environments, useful for a variety of food and beverage formulations.
  • Non‑Metabolizable: Not metabolized by the body, thus it does not affect blood glucose or insulin levels.

Uses in Ultra‑Processed Foods

Sucralose is extensively used in ultra‑processed foods due to its beneficial properties. Here’s how and why it is used:

  • Calorie Reduction: Sucralose allows manufacturers to create low‑calorie or calorie‑free versions of traditionally high‑calorie products, such as sodas, desserts, and confectioneries. This can attract health‑conscious consumers or those looking to reduce their sugar intake.
  • Enhanced Sweetness: The high sweetness intensity of sucralose means only small quantities are needed to achieve the desired taste, which helps in maintaining the texture and bulk of the product without adding calories.
  • Cost Efficiency: Although sucralose is more expensive per kilogram than sugar, its potency means that less is needed, often leading to cost savings in large‑scale production.
  • Shelf Life Extension: Its stability under various conditions helps in maintaining the sweetness and overall quality of products over extended periods, thus extending shelf life.
  • Psychological Appeal: By offering sweet flavours without the associated calories, sucralose can satisfy cravings for sweetness, potentially influencing consumer behaviour towards choosing these products more frequently. This can impact dietary habits and potentially lead to higher consumption of ultra‑processed foods under the perception that they are a healthier option.

Health Considerations

While sucralose is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by regulatory bodies like the FDA and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), there are some health considerations to be aware of:

  • Gut Health: Some studies suggest that sucralose may affect the gut microbiota, potentially leading to imbalances that could affect digestion and overall health.
  • Metabolic Effects: Despite not affecting blood sugar directly, some research indicates that sucralose might influence insulin sensitivity and metabolic responses in certain individuals.
  • Potential for Allergic Reactions: Though rare, some people may experience allergic reactions to sucralose, including symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, or gastrointestinal distress.
  • Cooking and Baking: While sucralose is heat‑stable, there is ongoing research into whether it may form potentially harmful compounds when heated to very high temperatures.

Moderation is advised, and individuals with specific health concerns or conditions should consult with a healthcare professional regarding the use of products containing sucralose.

References

  1. Magnuson, B. A., Carakostas, M. C., Moore, N. H., Poulos, S. P., & Renwick, A. G. (2017). "Biological fate of low‑calorie sweeteners". Nutrition Reviews, 75(8), 665‑679.
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2020). "Additional Information about High‑Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for Use in Food in the United States". Retrieved from FDA website.
  3. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). (2011). "Scientific Opinion on the safety of sucralose". EFSA Journal, 9(6), 2180.
  4. Schiffman, S. S., & Rother, K. I. (2013). "Sucralose, a synthetic organochlorine sweetener: overview of biological issues". Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 16(7), 399‑451.