Is Splenda Safe for Diabetes?

Splenda has become one of the most popular artificial sweeteners, having sold more than 100 billion yellow packets since its launch in 1992.

The company claims that using Splenda instead of sugar can help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. But what does the science say?

This article discusses the pros and cons of using Splenda, particularly for people who have diabetes. Read on for answers to commonly asked questions about Splenda and how the sweetener may affect your health.

Splenda packets

magnez2 / iStock

What Is Splenda?

Splenda is made from the FDA-approved artificial sweetener sucralose. Sugar and sucralose have similar chemical structures. But while sugar is made from the sugar cane plant, sucralose is made in a laboratory.

When you eat sugar, your body breaks most of it down and turns it into blood sugar (glucose). When you eat sucralose, only about 7% to 11% of it is digested, and the majority of it leaves your body in urine and feces.

This explains why Splenda is considered a zero-calorie sweetener, even though each packet still contains 3.3 calories. Splenda is also 600 times sweeter than table sugar, so a little goes a long way.

You can purchase Splenda in individual packets or in bulk, and it comes in both white and brown sugar baking forms. Splenda is heat stable, which means that it will not lose its sweetness when baked at high temperatures. This makes it a popular sugar substitute for baking.

Artificial sweeteners like sucralose are often referred to as non-nutritive sweeteners or low-calorie sweeteners because they contain little to no calories.

Which Foods Use Splenda?

Many "sugar-free" and "reduced-calorie" foods and beverages contain Splenda. This allows manufacturers to sweeten their products without all the added calories and carbohydrates that come with sugar.

If you're wondering if a product contains Splenda, read the ingredient list and look for the word "sucralose." You can find Splenda in many foods and beverages, including:

  • Baked goods
  • Diet soft drinks
  • Chewing gum
  • Gelatins
  • Frozen dairy desserts

Health Effects of Splenda

The FDA approved sucralose as safe for human consumption in 1998. They reviewed over 110 human and animal studies, looking for possible links between sucralose and cancer as well as reproductive and neurological issues. No links were found.

Since then, even more research has shown that sucralose may be a healthier alternative to sugar. However, some research suggests otherwise.

Can Splenda Help With Weight Loss?

Many studies suggest that people who use low-calorie sweeteners are able to lose weight more easily, maintain a healthier weight, and control their blood sugar levels better.

For example, one trial found that people who drank beverages sweetened with sucralose lost more weight than people whose beverages contained sugar or another artificial sweetener.

Another analysis of more than 20 studies published in 2014 found that low-calorie sweeteners helped people lose weight and fat mass. They were also able to trim their waists down.

By itself, Splenda may not cause you to gain weight. But it's possible that eating Splenda may cause you to crave more sweets, which could indirectly lead to weight gain.

Do Artificial Sweeteners Cause Sugar Cravings?

It has been suggested that consuming artificial sweeteners triggers more sweet cravings. The theory is that artificial sweeteners, which are far sweeter than table sugar, overstimulate your sweet taste buds, causing you to overeat and gain weight.

One study set out to investigate this theory. Over 400 people were recruited for a series of taste tests. They were asked to drink a variety of sweetened beverages, some of which contained sugar, while others contained low-calorie sweeteners.

During the taste test, participants rated the sweetness of each beverage on a scale of 0 to 100. Overall, sugar tasted much sweeter than the low-calorie sweeteners, but less low-calorie sweetener was needed for beverages to taste sweet.

The authors concluded that low-calorie sweeteners do not excite your sweet taste buds more than sugar, and using them does not lead to more sweet cravings.

Everyone is different. Splenda may not trigger sweet cravings in some people. But for others, the only way to stop craving sweets may be to stop eating them completely.

Could Splenda Cause Cancer?

Sucralose has been studied closely to determine if consuming it could cause cancer. So far, there is no reason to believe that using sucralose in your diet increases your cancer risk.

In 2017, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released their findings. After years of animal studies, they reported that Splenda is safe and does not cause cancer—in mice.

Although the existing research shows that sucralose consumption does not cause cancer, more human studies are needed to be certain.

Should People With Diabetes Use Splenda?

Evidence from many studies suggests that consuming artificial sweeteners—sucralose included—does not affect blood sugar levels. These studies show that sucralose should be safer than sugar for people with diabetes.

However, there is evidence that drinking diet sodas increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity, along with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and other symptoms of metabolic syndrome that could ultimately lead to diabetes.

In one study, individuals in a group each added 15 milligrams (mg) of Splenda—about one packet—per day to the food or beverage of their choice. After 14 days, those who ate Splenda had higher insulin resistance than people in another group who were not given Splenda at all.

If you have insulin resistance, it is more difficult for your body to take glucose (blood sugar) from your bloodstream and convert it into energy. This leads to high blood sugar that, left untreated, could eventually turn into type 2 diabetes.

Researchers stress that more studies are needed to identify the health effects that consuming sucralose over the long term could have.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), “For some people with diabetes who are accustomed to sugar-sweetened products, nonnutritive sweeteners (containing few or no calories) may be an acceptable substitute for nutritive sweeteners (those containing calories, such as sugar, honey, agave syrup) when consumed in moderation."

How to Add Splenda to Your Diet

If you are looking to reduce calories, carbohydrates, and sugar in your diet, you can add Splenda to your beverages and baked goods. Keep in mind that Splenda tastes much sweeter than sugar so you don't need to use as much.

Instead of adding sugar, try this instead:

  • Drinks: Use Splenda's liquid sweeteners for your hot or iced beverages, including coffee and tea, lemonade, cocktails, smoothies, or hot chocolate.
  • Oatmeal: Splenda's Brown Sugar Blend works great in this breakfast staple.
  • Brownies: Use Splenda's Brown Sugar Blend for blondies and fudge brownies.
  • Breads: Splenda's Allulose Sweetener can be used to make Hawaiian rolls, scones, pound cake, muffins, sticky buns, and beyond.
  • Keto recipes: Splenda's Monk Fruit Sweetener is keto-friendly and ideal for keto cookies, pancakes, cakes, and more.

Different Types of Splenda

Splenda offers a whole lot more than their little yellow packets. You can find Splenda products for all your cooking, baking, and mixing needs. Note that some of these products contain ingredients other than sucralose, sometimes including sugar or other sweeteners with calories.

There are also a variety of products that are suitable for keto and plant-based diets. Splenda does not test its products for gluten, but Splenda sweeteners are not made with ingredients that contain gluten, so they should not have it.

Some of the most popular Splenda products include:

  • Splenda No Calorie Sweetener: Packets used to flavor hot and cold beverages, yogurt, smoothies, and cereals
  • Splenda No Calorie Sweetener with Fiber: Packets that contain an added gram of fiber
  • Splenda Naturals Stevia Sweetener: Made from stevia non-GMO ingredients, no added flavors, and no bitter aftertaste
  • Splenda Sugar Blend: A mix of pure sugar and Splenda Brand Sweetener. Designed to help you reduce sugar intake while adding flavor, texture, and moistness to baked goods
  • Splenda Brown Sugar Blend: A blend of brown sugar and sucralose that has half the calories and carbs per serving of brown sugar alone
  • Splenda Zero Liquid Sweetener: A portable, zero-calorie liquid sweetener used to sweeten beverages
  • Splenda No Calorie Sweeteners for Coffee, French Vanilla: Zero-calorie flavored sweeteners made for coffee
  • Splenda Monk Fruit Sweetener: A 100% natural sweetener made from real monk fruit that is keto-friendly
  • Splenda Allulose Sweetener: A plant-based, keto-friendly sweetener that tastes just like sugar but has zero carbs

How Much Splenda Is Safe to Eat?

The FDA sets Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) levels for each artificial sweetener. The ADI is based on the amount that can a person can safely consume over their lifetime.

The ADI for sucralose is 5 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of body weight. For a person who weighs 60 kg—or 132 pounds—that is 23 packets of Splenda. Keep in mind that one packet of Splenda contains 12 mg of sucralose.

The FDA estimates that most people, including those with diabetes, consume nowhere near the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of sweeteners.

When to Avoid Splenda

Splenda maintains that their products are safe for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with diabetes.

Splenda also reports that 85% of Splenda skips the digestive system and leaves the body in the urine or feces within 24 hours after you consume it. They claim that Splenda causes no gastrointestinal side effects.

But, each individual is unique and, while Splenda typically does not cause weight gain, increase blood sugars, or promote headaches in most people, it doesn't mean it can't. If you are experiencing negative effects when using Splenda, it's best to avoid it.

As with most man-made food and beverage items, moderation is key. Eating too much Splenda may lead to gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas, bloating, and headaches. These symptoms tend to vary from person to person.

Splenda Alternatives

Many diet beverages use a blend of sweeteners. Along with sucralose, diet beverages may include:

  • Equal (aspartame): Some research suggests that aspartame intake could lead to weight gain and insulin resistance. You should not use aspartame if you have phenylketonuria (PKU), as your body cannot digest phenylalanine, a protein in aspartame.
  • Sweet and Low (saccharin): The FDA states that saccharin—the oldest artificial sweetener—is a safe substitute for sugar.
  • Sunnett (acesulfame-K): This is another FDA-approved sweetener that more than 90 studies have shown to be safe.
  • Truvia (stevia): The FDA recognizes stevia leaf extract, in its pure form, to be safe. However, "whole stevia leaves" and "crude stevia leaf extracts" are not approved. If you see a product with these ingredients, do not buy it.

Consider using honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, or molasses if you would prefer using a natural, single-ingredient alternative to sugar. Look for products that are labeled with terms like "pure" and "raw," as these are more likely to contain natural vitamins and minerals.

Natural sweeteners like honey and agave nectar will still affect your blood sugar, and you should use them in moderation if you have diabetes or are at risk. Using any sweetener in excess can lead to weight gain and diabetes, just like table sugar.

Summary

Splenda products come in a variety of forms that can be used in foods and beverages. You can also find Splenda products that are suitable for keto, plant-based, and gluten-free diets.

If you have diabetes, you may benefit from choosing Splenda over sugar. This will help you cut down the amount of calories and carbohydrates you consume.

But before you add Splenda to your diet, weigh the pros and cons. There is a ton of mixed research out there, and it's unclear whether or not consuming artificial sweeteners is safe in the long term.

A Word From Verywell

Cutting out sugar can be tough, but it's a necessary step to take if you have diabetes or are at risk. Using Splenda instead of sugar is a good place to start, but creating a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats is the ultimate goal.

Remember, just because a product has Splenda in it, doesn't mean it's completely sugar-free or carbohydrate-free. The only way to know exactly what you are putting in your body is to read the ingredients list and continue to do your research.

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