Sucralose, also known as Splenda, is found in so many of the foods and beverages we consume, but its role in glucose levels, weight loss, and health is controversial. Various studies have speculated that sucralose changes the way glucose and insulin are metabolized in our bodies, including the possibility that it may actually stimulate glucose and insulin secretion. This means that folks who consume sucralose to reduce sugar intake and lose weight may actually end up gaining weight.
Different studies are contradictory and can be confusing. A recent study in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology showed that sucralose had no effect on blood glucose or insulin, even though it has an increased sweet taste signal. Faster glucose transport and the increased sweet taste signal was the pathway implicated in the possible glucose and weight increase. Since the sweetener adds no calories to the diet, the researchers concluded that sucralose would be beneficial as a means to reduce sugar intake.
Does that mean sucralose should be consumed freely? Not in our opinion. First, weight gain is not the only concern that shows up in the research. Sucralose has also been said to boost fat build-up in all parts of the body. Additionally, sucralose has been shown to decrease beneficial gut flora, such as lactobacilli, even three months after ingestion. It may also interfere with certain medications and has been shown to be carcinogenic, especially at high temperatures.
Sucralose is a synthetic sweetener. Artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, are categorized as food additives, and FDA approval for consumption does not guarantee safety in the long-run. As always, we encourage healthy diets consisting of fresh, real foods and beverages, and decreasing overall consumption of sweets. When a sweetener is needed, though, try natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, agave nectar, or raw sugar.