All About Sucralose
Don't get this one confused with sucrose, or cane (table) sugar. Sucralose is one of the sweetest artificial sweeteners on store shelves today, and you may recognize it by one of its names on the market: Splenda. Not only does sucralose have a better taste when compared to the likes of aspartame or saccharin, it's also stable enough for baking and about 600 times sweeter than sugar. Despite these positives, there are several drawbacks to using sucralose.
What is sucralose?
Sucralose has been on the artificial sweetener scene since 1976 and is researchers' attempt to create an insecticide. Its name itself is highly controversial, since it contains the suffix -ose which isn't normally used for additives, and its proposed name was originally trichlorogalactosucrose. The Food and Drug Administration permitted it retain the name sucralose.
It was discovered when--you guessed it--researcher Shashikant Phadnis tasted the compound in a lab after mistakenly believing another researcher, Leslie Hough, asked him to taste it. Sucralose didn't become widely used in foods and beverages until sometime later, with the United States approving it for use in 1998, while Canada was the first country to approve the sweetener in 1991. The Food and Drug Administration amended regulations for use of sucralose in foods in 2006.
Sucralose is now used in thousands of foods and beverages because it adds no calories to foods, goes easy on the teeth (i.e. doesn't contribute to cavities) and unlike other sweeteners doesn't affect insulin levels in the body. The sweetener isn't sold individually in pure form and is otherwise mixed with bulking agents such as maltodextrin or dextrose when sold as Splenda. The additional agents help stabilize the sucralose, which can break down in higher temperatures.
On a molecular level, sucralose is made when table sugar undergoes selective chlorination.
Sounds fancy, eh?
The process involves replacing three hydroxyl groups with chloride, by way of selectively protecting those primary alcohol groups through acetylation. Acetylation is just a technical way of saying a reaction which adds an acetyl functional group to the already existing chemical compound to creating another (adding "one" and "two" to get "three"). This is followed by the deprotection of those primary alcohol groups. The partially acetylated sugar is then chlorinated with phosphorus oxychloride (though other compounds may be used) and the acetyl groups removed to give us sucralose. This is just a simple way to explain the process, as the likes of acetic anhydride, hydrogen chlorine, methanol in the presence of dimethylformamide, trityl chloride, thionyl chloride, 4-methylmorpholine, toluene, methyl isobutyl ketone, benzyltriethlyammonium chloride, methyl isobutyl ketone and sodium methoxide are all used to make sucralose.
Should I be consuming sucralose?
Sure, if you find acetic anhydride, hydrogen chlorine, methanol in the presence of dimethylformamide, trityl chloride, thionyl chloride, 4-methylmorpholine, toluene, methyl isobutyl ketone, benzyltriethlyammonium chloride, methyl isobutyl ketone and sodium methoxide to be quite tasty!
In short, because sucralose is a processed additive, natural sweeteners will always fair better for consumption by default.
The creation of sucralose involves well-known carcinogens, such as chlorine. Chlorine is a major component in many insecticides (from which sucralose was discovered by accident in the first place), pesticides, various poisons, plastics and cleaners. Since sucralose hasn't been in circulation for human consumption for very long there aren't too many definitive studies on its long term effects, but some consumers have reported the following short term symptoms after consuming it:
- Rashes and other skin issues
- Mood swings
- Allergy-like reactions (itchy eyes, sore throat, runny nose, ect...)
- Chest pains
It's important to note while sucralose contains no carbohydrates, the addition of maltodextrin or dextrose to it does. This can be of concern for diabetics, who may get more of their daily recommended value of carbs if used regularly.
Yes, there are alternatives!
There most certainly are alternatives to using artificial sweeteners, so don't worry, more on those are coming shortly. As said previously, by default anything natural is always healthier than processed foods, so instead of shying away from your favorite dishes opt for natural sweetening options instead.
Here is more information on foods and additives you may want to avoid: