Life just got a bit sweeter, actually about 600 times sweeter! The FDA has approved the newest form of no-calorie sweetener, known as Sucralose. Sucralose, made by McNeil Specialty Products (Johnson &Johnson), is the only non-nutritive sweetener made from sugar. It is significantly sweeter than Aspartame, Ace-K, and Saccharin. Because of its origin, it tastes like sugar, but has added benefits and unique properties.
Sucralose is exceptionally stable, even in low-pH items (certain beverages), under high temperatures (useful in baking and pasteurization), and in its stand-alone state (tabletop). Its shelf life is superior to all other leading sweeteners. These attributes are the backbone of its outstanding processing versatility. This is a giant step ahead considering that the current limited use of sweeteners in commercial products is primarily due to instability over time and at high temperatures (e.g. Aspartame, or NutraSweet), and due to taste limitations such as with Saccharin and Acesulfame-K (Ace-K).
The taste profile of sucralose is almost identical to sucrose (table sugar). The data above compare the two at neutral pH in a 5% solution.
Structurally, Sucralose is almost identical to sucrose. The three hydroxyl groups (-OH) of sucrose have been selectively replaced with atoms of chlorine. These tightly bound chlorine atoms help create a molecular structure that is extremely stable, 600 times sweeter than sugar, a perfect match for “sweet” taste bud receptors, and metabolically inert. Sucralose flows throughout the body almost unabsorbed and causing no GI distress (often noted with similar additives such as Olestra). It is rapidly excreted, not hydrolyzed or dechlorinated following ingestion, and does not promote dental caries (cavities) nor support the growth of oral bacteria, nor cause changes in the pH of plaque (1, 2, 3).
Sucralose is minimally metabolized, leaving the metabolites nontoxic and excreted in urine. Although not a diabetic, as a health care professional I have great appreciation for this advancement because I am involved with diabetic patients everyday in the clinical setting. Because the body does not recognize Sucralose as a carbohydrate, it has no effect on insulin secretion or blood glucose levels (4, 5). The American Dietetic Association states that “non-nutritive sweeteners are safe to use and widely advocated and used by persons with diabetes”(5). Whether diabetic, obese, or just a health conscious individual, Sucralose is the answer to reducing sugar intake or calorie intake in order to continue enjoying favorite foods. [EDITORS’ NOTE: The substitution of sugar may also have important implications for weight trainers with sore muscles who commonly experience a state of acute glucose intolerance.]
Sucralose also has a few other positive aspects within the realm of health care. It can be used by pregnant women and nursing mothers. Studies have confirmed that Sucralose is not actively transported across the placenta or across mammary glands into breast milk. This sweetener has been found to be non-hazardous to a developing young person’s health. However, due to the importance of calories for a growing child’s body, foods made with low-calories sweeteners are not normally recommended. Sucralose does not contain phenylalanine (as does Aspartame) or any other additional amino acids, posing no threat to patients with phenylketonuria (PKU).
T he FDA has reviewed over 110 studies involving humans and animals conducted to prove that the consumption of Sucralose is safe. There were also 40 environmental studies completed. These studies depicted that even in extremely high doses there is no evidence of side effects, increased chances of birth defects, immune system problems, toxicity, carcinogenic properties (unlike saccharin), genetic changes, negative effects on male/female reproduction (nor on progeny), or adverse CNS effects. The lack of a warning label for its use is a definite "feather in the cap" for Sucralose. After reviewing the numerous studies completed and extensive data, it is obvious that Sucralose will make a run at becoming the best choice ever among low-calorie sweeteners.
- Young, DA, Bowen WH, The influence of Sucralose on bacterial metabolism, J Dent Res, 1990; 69 (8): 1480-1484.
- Bowen WH et al, The effects of Sucralose on coronal and root-surface caries, J Dent Res, 1990; 69 (8): 1485-1487.
- Syrrakov EP et al, The effect of Sucralose on plaque pH, Abstract, J Dent Res, 1993; 72:346.
- Mezitis NHE et al, Glycemic effect of a single high oral dose of the novel sweetener Sucralose in patients with diabetes, Diabetes Care, 1996; 19(9): 1004-1005.
- Position of the American Dietetic Association: Use of Nutritive and Non-Nutritive Sweeteners. JADA July 1993, 93(7): 816-821.