What It Is: Sucralose is an artificial, sugar-like substance made from chemicals. It is a calorie-free alternative to sugars such as cane sugar and honey, but just like other artificial sweeteners, it may pose serious health risks. Sucralose is found in tens of thousands of processed food products sold in 90 different countries under various brand names, and has become one of the most common fake sugars utilized.
Health Risk: The studies conducted around sucralose and its effects on the body are greatly varied and inconclusive as a whole. There are many studies claiming that sucralose is harmless when low dosages are administered, but there are also handfuls proving otherwise. The problem is that the majority of research studies are funded by those who have a vested interest in the outcome (i.e., those who need to prove sucralose is safe to ingest). But when research studies are analyzed from outside, unbiased sources, major health risks are often uncovered. This corroborates what so many health experts have been seeing clinically – namely that sucralose is a dangerous food additive causing a range of issues from digestive disorders and anxiety to cancer and infertility.
What Science Says: Several studies have shown sucralose to be associated with adverse health outcomes including weight gain, metabolic disease and vascular dysfunction. It is proposed that the “missing” calories in sucralose confuse the brain-hormone reactions of the body. This causes individuals to overeat and alters their taste preference for sweet foods. In addition, it changes the way the body processes sugars and how it sends the signals of satiety (feeling full). As a result, eating sucralose can lead to weight gain, not weight loss, as well as obesity-related conditions.
In addition, studies have indicated that sucralose may cause pre-term delivery, kidney dysfunction, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, blurred vision and multiple myeloma. The most recent scientific review also determined that sucralose can affect the body similarly to pesticides and industrial chemicals. This includes reducing the number and balance of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in the gut and causing damage and scarring of GI-tract tissue. As a consequence, the immune system is suppressed and unable to fight harmful pathogens. This can lead to an array of diseases including chronic fatigue and pain, skin disorders, impaired mental health (anxiety, irritability, depression), stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipation, headaches and undiagnosable conditions.
TCM note: Further research must be done on the safety of sucralose and its effects on the body. While there are studies pointing toward its safety, there are countless clinical testimonies proving otherwise. Start with this resource to see how it has affected people directly. It is always best to err on the safe side by choosing healthier alternatives.
How to Avoid It: As always, check your labels. Sucralose is found in diet sodas, energy drinks, diet juice, beverages and teas, yogurts, puddings, condiments, canned fruit, frozen desserts, chewing gum, protein powders, candies, cereals, snack foods and individualized powdered packets. It’s almost always found in any food or beverage labeled “diet,” “sugar-free,” “no added sugar,” “light,” “low-carbohydrate” or “low-calorie.”
Danger Zone: You might expect to find sucralose in diet drinks and foods, but there are other places that might be off your radar. Be diligent about looking at your favorite energy bars and drinks, sugar-free teas and hot chocolate powders, fruit juices and coffee creamers. You may be surprised to find it lurking in your froyo, sugar-free jelly, kids’ gummy vitamins, hydration drinks, flavored water and light yogurt.
Alternatives to Try: The healthiest sweeteners are those that are natural. This includes raw honey, maple syrup, molasses, coconut sugar and yacon syrup. These sweeteners also contain an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support the body’s systems and slow the release of the sugars. But if you’re looking for a no-calorie option, try organic stevia or monk fruit (luo han guo), both of which are whole-food derivatives.
Tip: Not all stevia products are created equal. Many brands over process the stevia and use synthetic solvents and harmful additives. This can cause GI disturbances such as cramping, flatulence and indigestion. Stick with organic, natural versions and use sparingly.