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Splenda: Not so sweet?

Researchers take another look at the safety of Splenda

By Sally Wadyka Jun 13, 2013 8:29PM

If you’re going to drink soda—or any other sweetened drink—it seems to make sense to pick the ones that don’t contain real sugar. After all, that simple swap can shave several hundred calories off your daily diet.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

But you’ve also got to figure the safety of your artificial sweetener into the equation. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit food safety watchdog group, places many popular artificial sweeteners on their “avoid” list—including saccharin (the ingredient in Sweet ‘N Low), aspartame (the ingredient in NutraSweet and Equal) and acesulfame potassium (the ingredient in Sunett and Sweet One). And now comes the news that the group has downgraded its rating for sucralose (better known as Splenda) from “safe” to “caution.”

The change is due to some potentially troubling results found by a group of Italian researchers. An independent lab in Italy has released an as-yet-unpublished study that calls into question the safety of sucralose. According to CSPI, the only long-term studies done previously on the sweetener were conducted by the compound’s manufacturers. In the Italian study, the researchers found that sucralose caused leukemia in mice. Since the study has yet to be vetted by other scientists, we don’t know all the details yet, but it was enough for CSPI to sound an alert.

This is not to say that if you continue to down the occasional Splenda-infused beverage you will inevitably end up with leukemia. Even the notoriously cautious CSPI isn’t saying that. In a statement, CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson put it this way: “Sucralose may prove to be safer than saccharin, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium, but the forthcoming Italian study warrants careful scrutiny before we can be confident that the sweetener is safe for use in food.”

So what’s a diet-conscious consumer supposed to do with this information? Well, you could avoid the issue all together by drinking things—like water, unsweetened iced tea or seltzer mixed with unsweetened fruit juice—that skip both high-calorie sugars and high-risk artificial sweeteners. But yes, that does mean that you don’t get to have a soda. 
 
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278Comments
Jun 13, 2013 10:53PM
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After learning that my symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis and fibromyalgia were being made worse by using artificial sweetners with aspartame, I went back to using plain old table sugar... I simply use less. Perhaps the old addage "everything in moderation" is the best solution. I drink a soft drink occasionally, I have sweet tea everyday, but have cut the sugar by 2/3 ( slowly so you can adjust) and when I need something to have a little extra boost I will use a natural alternative like Stevia, which is surprisingly good.  You can re-train your taste buds and just use less of natural substances... that seems like a healthier alternative.

Jun 13, 2013 10:52PM
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I don't believe they have or will ever find a sweetener that will be safe.  You're fooling yourself if you think you can eat what you want and not get the calories.  These chemicals have terrible side effects.  After years of eating huge amounts of them, you're going to find out they cause cancer or some other horrible thing.  Quit raising your kids on them.  At least we know what sugar does to you.
Jun 13, 2013 10:48PM
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I read that having unprotected sex may lead to pregnancy.
Jun 13, 2013 10:42PM
Jun 13, 2013 10:56PM
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take everything in moderation be careful of substitutes don't use margarine its only a few molecules from plastic
Jun 13, 2013 11:00PM
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Stick with good old sugar.All its going to do is put on some pounds.Chemical sweeteners aren't good for you at all""
Jun 13, 2013 10:50PM
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Is real sugar the safest? Even if it's higher in calories?
Jun 13, 2013 10:46PM
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Something is going to kill us all.

Everything is bad for you in some way.

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