Sucralose Is Not Necessarily a Healthier Choice Than Regular Sugar—Here’s What to Know Before You Buy (2023)

As a runner, you may pay as much attention to what you eat and drink to fuel your body as you do about running shoes and fitness trackers. And while you may also know sugar can give you the glucose and calories you need to complete a run, most nutritional advice suggests staying away from added sugar in food and beverages. Considering the average American adult consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugars every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many products have swapped the typical sweet stuff for sugar substitutes, like sucralose.

Sucralose tastes sweet and serves up zero calories. But is it bad for you?

As usual in the field of nutrition science, there isn’t a cut-and-dried answer on whether sucralose is bad for you or if it has long-term negative effects. But we do have important information that can inform your decision on whether you should take it or leave it.

What is sucralose?

Sucralose, most commonly known as Splenda, is a chemical made in a laboratory, Lindsey Pfau, R.D., C.S.S.D, owner of Rise Up Nutrition tells Runner’s World. It’s a non-nutritive, zero-calorie sweetener that’s very similar to sugar. “[Chemists] adjusted some of the bonds of the sugar molecule so your body doesn’t digest or absorb it,” Pfau adds.

While sucralose technically comes from a sugar molecule, it’s not the same as sucrose, the chemical name for table sugar. In fact, Splenda’s slogan—“made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar”—is misleading, and has therefore caused past legal issues. For example, the Center for Science in the Public Interest released a statement and suit in 2012 saying Splenda should be more truthful in its marketing, and in 2007, the makers of Equal, whose main ingredient is aspartame, sued the makers of Splenda over the slogan for the same reason.

(Video) Toxic Sweeteners

“It’s clever marketing, but it does mislead consumers because it’s passed off as a natural thing, and it’s not,” Pfau explains. “The sugar molecule is natural—you can find it in foods across the Earth—but once you bring it to a laboratory and start tampering with it, it’s no longer sugar. It doesn’t function in the body like sugar.”

Regular sugar, whether that’s cane, honey, maple syrup, even high-fructose corn syrup, is absorbed and digested by the body, Pfau explains. But sucralose, which is 600 times sweeter than real sugar, doesn’t provide calories or nutrients. Pfau adds: “It has no benefits to it, as far as affecting your body in a positive way.”

The likely reason zero-calorie sweeteners like sucralosa a.k.a. Splenda stormed onto the food scene and found their way onto the ingredients lists of diet sodas and lower-calorie desserts, was to curb sugar intake. Too much of the sweet stuff has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and metabolic syndrome, so food manufacturers looked for a way to add sweetness to their products without extra calories. But having your cake, and well, eating it for fewer calories, might make you wonder if the sugar-free label is too good to be true.

Is sucralose bad for you?

Here’s where things get a little confusing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says sucralose is “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. That means that experts consider the substance in question safe based on available research.

“All artificial sugars are GRAS, and they’re on the market because the research we have so far states that if they’re consumed in amounts that are reasonable for humans, they’re safe, that they won’t cause immediate or long-term health detriments,” Pfau says.

There is research that has found that when lab animals were given extremely high amounts of sucralose, they developed cancer. But it’s hard to replicate these studies in humans because of ethics—it could put humans at risk.

(Video) Five Best Sugar Substitutes | Dr. Josh Axe

However, some studies show that sucralose may not have calories, but may have side effects. According to a 2020 double-blind, randomized trial published in Nutrition Journal, involving 137 healthy participants ages 18 to 35, consuming sucralose for 10 weeks can raise the level of insulin in healthy adults. Likewise, in regard to artificial sweeteners, the American Diabetes Association states on its website that “there is a great deal of research questioning their overall safety and long-term impacts on health,” particularly when it comes to issues like insulin resistance, cancer, and inflammation.

“There have been some studies of sucralose in humans, but no long-term studies that would assess whether it caused cancer or other effects over the long term,” says Lisa Lefferts, M.S.P.H., senior scientist for Center for Science in the Public Interest. “It is difficult to obtain human evidence on whether an additive causes cancer or other long-term effects. Our biggest concern with sucralose is that it causes cancer in animals, and thus may also cause cancer in humans.”

“When it comes to cancer-causing substances, the less you’re exposed to, the lower your risk,” Lefferts adds. “There is not thought to be an amount that is without risk. However, the risk is extremely small when eating small amounts, like a packet or two [of Splenda] a day.”

Finally, there is some evidence to suggest that artificially sweetened drinks may not be any healthier than sugary drinks for your heart: A 2020 research letter published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows an association between consuming large quantities of both types of beverages and higher risk of heart disease.

Are other artificial sweeteners better than sucralose?

There are other sugar substitutes on the market, including aspartame (Nutrasweet and Equal), saccharin (Sweet'N Low), and stevia-derived (Truvia). While these products are GRAS, studies have shown that they may not help with their intended goal, which is often weight loss. A 2015 longitudinal study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society found that drinking diet soda, which contains artificial sweeteners, is associated with increases in waist circumference. Diet sodas have also been linked to metabolic syndrome.

It’s important to remember that just because a product is labeled “safe” doesn’t mean it’s “recommended.” But there might be times when sucralose, or other artificial sweeteners come in handy for your diet. “As a dietitian, I might recommend or encourage people to use sucralose as a stepping stone or temporary solution to wean themselves off sugar if they’re consuming too much,” Pfau says.

(Video) What's the BEST Artificial Sweetener? | Taste Test + Rankings | Sugar, Stevia, Sucralose & More

“CSPI rates both erythritol [a low-calorie sugar alcohol] and stevia leaf extract as safe,” she adds. “Erythritol would be my first choice in terms of safety, although if you consume huge amounts, it could cause nausea.”

Erythritol isn’t without its downfalls either, though. Recent research published in Nature and examining the blood of about 4,000 people—all over the age of 60 and with elevated risk for cardiovascular diseases—found that those with the highest blood concentration of the sweetener were at higher risk for a cardiovascular event, including heart attack or stroke. But the researchers are quick to point out the need for more research.

CSPI also marks sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin as unsafe based on the current research, but again, that research looked at animals, not humans.

The bottom line on sucralose consumption

We need more research on the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners, including sucralose, on humans. So the key here—as with most aspects of nutrition—is two-fold: eat real food and everything in moderation.

Working with a dietitian is a good way to balance using sugar alternatives and consuming a healthy diet for a host of long-term health benefits.

As for runners who rely on sugar (the kind with calories!) to fuel their muscles for workouts, choosing sucralose won’t give their bodies what they need. You’re better off opting for the real thing and enjoying it in moderation or specifically on days when you need it, like a long run day.

(Video) Why You Should Ditch Artificial Sweeteners

“We know our bodies need calories,” Pfau says. “So we should put good calories in the body.”

Sucralose Is Not Necessarily a Healthier Choice Than Regular Sugar—Here’s What to Know Before You Buy (1)

Heather Mayer Irvine

(Video) The Problem with Stevia

Freelance Writer

Heather is the former food and nutrition editor for Runner’s World, the author of The Runner’s World Vegetarian Cookbook, and a seven-time marathoner with a best of 3:31—but she is most proud of her 1:32 half, 19:44 5K, and 5:33 mile. Her work has been published in The Boston Globe, Popular Mechanics, The Wall Street Journal Buy Side, Cooking Light, CNN, Glamour, The Associated Press, and


Which is worse sugar or sucralose? ›

But for overall health, table sugar or natural sugar is the way to go -- just not too much of it! "Artificial sweeteners have recent medical studies showing safety, but table sugar has centuries of chemical safety data," adds Dr. Kumar.

Is sucralose just as bad as sugar? ›

Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is generally considered safe when enjoyed in moderation. However, research on its long-term effects has turned up mixed results. Excessive amounts of added sugar can have harmful effects on your metabolism and overall health ( 1 ).

What are the dangers of sucralose? ›

A study found that sucralose increased blood glucose levels and insulin levels while decreasing insulin sensitivity. This could negatively affect people, especially those with diabetes, who consume sucralose to try to manage their blood glucose levels.

Should you avoid sucralose? ›

Yet scientists haven't found any direct negative health effects in people who consume sucralose long-term. That's true both for healthy people and those with diabetes. “While sucralose may cause problems at higher doses, most people consume nowhere near that amount,” says Patton.

Does sucralose cause inflammation like sugar? ›

Although more research in humans is needed, studies indicate that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the health of the gut microbiome, which plays a key role in regulating inflammation. One animal model also found that regular consumption of sucralose also known as Splenda, could cause liver inflammation in mice.

Is sucralose banned in Europe? ›

Sucralose is authorised in the EU for food use with exception for foods for young children.

What is better stevia or sucralose? ›

Sucralose won't lose its sweetness when you put it in something hot, so it's best for cooking and baking. Stevia is very sweet, and although it can be used for food, it's sweetness makes it ideal to add to drinks, especially if you are craving sugar.

How long does it take for sucralose to leave your body? ›

"We found two metabolites in urine and feces throughout the sucralose dosing period," Schiffman says. "Those metabolites could still be detected in the urine 11 days after we stopped giving the rats sucralose, and six days after the sucralose itself could no longer be detected.

Can diabetics eat sucralose? ›

Artificial sweeteners like sucralose are marketed as sugar substitutes that don't raise blood sugar levels, making them a safer choice for diabetics.

Can sucralose damage your gut? ›

However, researches have confirmed that sucralose can change the composition of gut microbiome, inhibiting intestinal development, and aggravating HFD-induced hepatic steatosis in adulthood (5, 9).

What is the most harmful artificial sweetener? ›

The worst of the worst culprits include aspartame (found in Equal and NutraSweet), sucralose (found in Splenda), and Saccharin (found in Sweet 'N Low). Many people who cut artificial sugars out of their diets report the improvement of many health problems including migraines, depression, IBS, weight gain, and more.

Is sucralose toxic to the liver? ›

Histopathological examination in sucralose and stevia administrated groups confirmed the biochemical results; where it revealed a severe damage in liver and kidney sections.

Which is safer aspartame or sucralose? ›

They are both considered generally safe for use within their stated safe limits. Sucralose is a better choice if you have phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic condition, as aspartame contains the amino acid phenylalanine.

Does sucralose leave your body? ›

Most of the sucralose consumed is not completely absorbed by the human body and is disposed of through excretion. Approximately 8–20% of the sucralose gets into the blood and is excreted through urine without metabolism.

How much sucralose is safe per day? ›

Acceptable Daily Intake: 5 milligrams for each kilogram of body weight. For a 150-pound person, 340 milligrams a day would be safe. A packet of Splenda contains 12 milligrams of sucralose.

Can sucralose cause neuropathy? ›

Unfortunately, sucralose releases toxic chemicals as part of its chemical bond with chlorine. Neurological side effects of prolonged sucralose consumption may include nerve damage, headaches, dizziness, anxiety, depression, tinnitus and various forms of brain fog.

Does sucralose change gut bacteria? ›

After 2 weeks, the researchers concluded that saccharin did not impact the gut bacteria of either mice or humans. Similarly, a study that involved two 14-day exposures to sucralose and aspartame also concluded that there was no change in participants' gut microbiomes.

Does sucralose cause bowel inflammation? ›

Our study demonstrated that sucralose greatly aggravated dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis along with causing changes in gut microbiota, the gut barrier and impaired inactivation of digestive proteases mediated by deconjugated bilirubin.

Why did Canada ban sucralose? ›

The sweetener, most famously associated with the Sweet 'N Low​ brand of sweetener, has been banned in Canada since 1977 when animal studies reported an increased risk of bladder cancer.

Why do they put sucralose in everything? ›

Sucralose is exceptionally stable, so foods and beverages sweetened with sucralose stay sweet under a wide range of conditions. This includes frozen foods like ice cream and other frozen desserts, as well as foods that need to be heated to high temperatures, like baked goods and foods that require sterilization.

What does the FDA say about sucralose? ›

Sucralose is approved for use in food as a non-nutritive sweetener. Sucralose is sold under the brand name Splenda®.

What is the least harmful artificial sweetener? ›

Stevia — in packet, drops or plant form — is a dietitian favorite. Not only does it contain zero calories, but stevia-based sweeteners are herbal as opposed to artificial. Stevia blended with a sugar alcohol called erythritol (Truvia®) works well in low-carb baked desserts, too.

What sweetener is in Coke Zero? ›

We sweeten Coke Zero Sugar in our bottles and cans with a blend of aspartame and acesulfame potassium (or Ace-K).

Does sucralose raise cholesterol? ›

The HDL and total cholesterol levels significantly increased after consumption of sucralose (p = 0.039) and sucrose (p = 0.001), respectively. No changes in triglycerides, LDL or oxidized LDL were observed.

What happens when you stop taking sucralose? ›

Your taste buds will stop getting tricked.

"We lose our taste for natural sweetness. Because of that we need heavy levels of sweetness to satisfy that sweet tooth." Naturally sweet foods, such as fruit, lose their appeal and savory foods, such as vegetables, become unpalatable.

What does sucralose do to the brain? ›

"After chronic exposure to a diet that contained the artificial sweetener sucralose, we saw that animals began eating a lot more," said study author Greg Neely. "Through systematic investigation of this effect, we found that inside the brain's reward centers, sweet sensation is integrated with energy content.

What are the pros and cons of sucralose? ›

Pros and Cons of Sucralose

Examples of these include: Pro: It is calorie free and therefore doesn't contribute to weight gain. Con: It is typically mixed with bulking agents (like dextrose) that do contain calories and sugars, so these available sweeteners are missing some of the purported benefits of pure sucralose.

Is Coke Zero good for diabetics? ›

No, zero sugar soda uses artificial sweeteners, which increases people's weight. Increased weight, in turn, is linked to the worsening of diabetes. Hence, zero soda is not suitable for diabetes.

Can diabetics eat honey? ›

Generally, there's no advantage to substituting honey for sugar in a diabetes eating plan. Both honey and sugar will affect your blood sugar level. Honey is sweeter than granulated sugar, so you might use a smaller amount of honey for sugar in some recipes.

Does sucralose raise blood pressure? ›

Sucralose, which has almost the same molecular structure as table sugar, does not have much, if any, effect on blood pressure.

Can sucralose cause leaky gut? ›

Associated with the consumption of the artificial sweetener named Splenda, are many sucralose side effects. Linked to Splenda dangers have been many health conditions. Some of these include causing leaky guy, irritable bowel syndrome, and even diabetes. Toxic compounds are believed to be the cause of this.

What artificial sweetener was once banned by the FDA? ›

As for saccharin, humans would need to drink the equivalent of 800 twelve-ounce diet sodas with saccharin daily to reach the carcinogenic doses that induced rat bladder cancer. Saccharin was banned in 1981 because of fear of possible carcinogenesis.

What is the healthiest alternative to sugar? ›

Natural Alternatives to Refined Sugar
  • Sugar Alcohols: Erythritol and Xylitol. Erythritol and xylitol are low calorie sweeteners. ...
  • Stevia. Stevia is a plant leaf extract. ...
  • Agave. Agave is a plant nectar. ...
  • Coconut Sugar. Coconut sugar comes from the sap of coconut trees. ...
  • Date Sugar. ...
  • Monk Fruit. ...
  • Fruit Puree. ...
  • Honey.
Mar 3, 2023

What is the safest natural sweetener to use? ›

5 Natural Sweeteners That Are Good for Your Health
  1. Stevia. Stevia is a very popular low calorie sweetener. ...
  2. Erythritol. Erythritol is another low calorie sweetener. ...
  3. Xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with a sweetness similar to that of sugar. ...
  4. Yacon syrup. Yacon syrup is another unique sweetener. ...
  5. Monk fruit sweetener.

Does sucralose affect the heart? ›

"It found that aspartame is associated with higher risk of cerebrovascular events (strokes) and acesulfame potassium and sucralose were associated with increased coronary heart disease risk." The study can be an effective resource for health providers, she adds.

Is sucralose bad for kidneys? ›

Will Splenda® (sucralose) cause adverse health effects or diseases like cancer or negatively impact the liver or kidneys? No. Around the world, sucralose has been confirmed safe.

Why is stevia banned in Europe? ›

It would be reasonable to expect health food stores up and down the country to be selling stocks of this apparent miracle of nature faster than they can get them in. Instead, they are barred by the European Union from selling the plant, called stevia, as a food or food ingredient because of concerns over its safety.

Why stevia over sucralose? ›

Stevia is often approached in the opposite effect to sucralose, in that is it praised for what it doesn't do – It doesn't add calories. It also doesn't contain artificial sweetener at all, as it is derived from plants. The stevia plant is part of the Asteraceae family, related to the common daisy in the UK.

What is the cleanest sweetener? ›

7 Clean Eating-Approved Sweeteners
  • Bob's Red Mill Organic Coconut Sugar. ...
  • SweetLeaf Liquid Stevia SteviaClear Sweet Drops. ...
  • GloryBee Raw Organic Fair Trade Honey. ...
  • Coombs Family Farms Grade A Dark Robust Pure Maple Syrup. ...
  • Wholesome Organic Cane Sugar. ...
  • Xlear XyloSweet. ...
  • NOW Real Food Date Sugar.
Aug 15, 2017

Does sucralose raise insulin? ›

Both animal and human studies have suggested a link between sucralose ingestion and raised insulin levels. In one study, 17 people were given either sucralose or water and then administered a glucose tolerance test ( 10 ). Those given sucralose had 20% higher blood insulin levels.

What does sucralose do to your metabolism? ›

These findings indicate that consumption of sucralose in the presence of a carbohydrate rapidly impairs glucose metabolism and results in longer-term decreases in brain, but not perceptual sensitivity to sweet taste, suggesting dysregulation of gut-brain control of glucose metabolism.

How bad is sucrose for you? ›

When sucrose is digested it breaks down into fructose and glucose, which then go their own separate ways in your body. This process raises your blood sugar, and too much can rupture blood vessels and cause mouth problems such as cavities and gum disease.

Can sucralose cause weight gain? ›

The groups that drank beverages containing sucralose, aspartame or Reb-A, a derivative of stevia, saw little change in their weight. But people who consumed beverages sweetened with sugar or saccharin, which is marketed as Sweet'N Low, experienced “significantly increased body weight” after three months.

Is sucralose the same as stevia? ›

Stevia (or stevia extract) is considered to be a type of natural sweetener, while sucralose is an artificial sweetener. Natural sweeteners come from natural sources that contain calories and nutrients that are metabolized by the body.

How much sucralose is equal to sugar? ›

Granular sucralose is the form used when baking. Substitute 1 cup granular sucralose for each cup of sugar called for in the recipe.

Does sucralose raise blood sugar more than sugar? ›

Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than sugar. Because of this, it takes only a small amount of artificial sweeteners to sweeten foods. This is why foods made with artificial sweeteners may have fewer calories than those made with sugar. Sugar substitutes don't affect your blood sugar level.

Which is worse artificial sweetener or sugar? ›

Both sugar and artificial sweetener are addictive. But artificial sweeteners may be likelier to make you get hungry, eat more throughout the day and develop diabetes. Sugar is OK in limited amounts and in the context of a healthy diet. (Eating a cookie you've made yourself is fine.

What is the safest artificial sweetener to use? ›

More than 90 studies support its safety. Sucralose is approved for use in food as a non-nutritive sweetener. Sucralose is sold under the brand name Splenda®. Sucralose is about 600 times sweeter than sugar.

Does sucralose damage gut bacteria? ›

However, researches have confirmed that sucralose can change the composition of gut microbiome, inhibiting intestinal development, and aggravating HFD-induced hepatic steatosis in adulthood (5, 9).

Which is better for diabetics stevia or sucralose? ›

The science suggests that neither stevia nor sucralose disrupt blood-glucose levels in the same way that sugar does. As such, both are relatively safe options for individuals who have or are at risk for developing diabetes.

What is the safest sweetener instead of sugar? ›

Safety of sugar substitutes
  • Acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Sunett).
  • Advantame.
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal).
  • Neotame (Newtame).
  • Saccharin (Sweet'N Low).
  • Sucralose (Splenda).
  • Luo han guo (Monk Fruit in the Raw).
  • Purified stevia leaf extracts (Truvia, PureVia, others).

Which is healthier sugar or honey? ›

"Honey's advantages over sugar include a slightly lower glycemic index (i.e. it doesn't affect your blood-sugar levels as much)," Dr. Dixon says. "It also contains more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, such as calcium, potassium, vitamin C, zinc, phenolic acids, and flavonoids."

What can I buy instead of sugar? ›

Common sugar substitutes and sweeteners
  • Maple syrup. Type: Natural sweetener. ...
  • Date paste. Type: Natural sweetener. ...
  • Honey. ...
  • Coconut sugar. ...
  • Agave nectar. ...
  • Monk fruit extracts (brand names: Nectresse, PureLo) ...
  • Stevia extracts (brand names: Pure Via, Truvia, SweetLeaf) ...
  • Xylitol (brand names: XyloSweet, Ideal, PolySweet)
Oct 18, 2021

What is the best alternative to sugar in coffee? ›

maple syrup


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