Since its approval in 1998, Splenda has become a staple in many people’s diets.
The popularity of Splenda and similar products reflects a growing awareness that consuming processed sugar is unhealthy.
However, while reducing sugar intake is an excellent idea, replacing it with artificial alternatives like Splenda may not be wise at all.
Although it has been more than 20 years since it was approved in the United States, there are still many questions regarding its safety and efficacy as an alternative to sugar.
In this article, we’ll look at what the current research says about Splenda’s potential health effects and how well it really works on a keto diet.
What is Splenda?
Splenda is the brand name for sucralose, an artificial sweetener made from table sugar. Sucralose is about 600 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar).
To make sucralose, chlorine is added to sugar (sucrose) molecules using a chemical process. This way, the sugar cannot cross into the bloodstream, and therefore should not cause a spike in blood sugar levels, at least in theory.
Since the body cannot metabolize sucralose, Splenda is advertised as a zero-calorie sweetener. However, you will soon see why this is not entirely accurate.
Splenda is sold as a zero-calorie sweetener. As a result, many people also assume that it must be on the keto diet.
However, there is very good reason to be skeptical of these claims.
The sweetness in commercially available Splenda powder is attributed to sucralose. Sucralose is actually a zero-calorie, carb-free sweetener.
However, the bulk – literally – of commercial Splenda actually consists of dextrose and maltodextrin. In other words, the manufacturer of Splenda combines dextrose and maltodextrin powder with sucralose to give it the equivalent volume of table sugar (that’s why you can mix it like table sugar, instead of using Splenda 600 times less sugar).
Dextrose is just another word for glucose. Glucose is the simplest carbohydrate, which means that it is absorbed into the bloodstream without the need for any additional breakdown during digestion.
Maltodextrin is a form of carbohydrate that has a higher glycemic index than glucose.
The glucose and maltodextrin in Splenda contribute about 3.4 kcal per serving.
You may be wondering why Splenda can say that their product has zero calories even if that isn’t true. The reason is that the Food and Drug Administration allows food companies to “round up” low-calorie products and label them as zero-calorie if they contain fewer than 5 calories per serving.
Now, let’s go back to the question of whether or not Splenda is keto.
Splenda contains a gram of sugar per serving, which won’t end ketosis on its own, but your body won’t “flip” if you consume multiple servings – hidden sources of carbs Act Add up, and the main point on keto is to avoid added sugars.
Verdict: You can technically consume Splenda in limited quantities, but it is not recommended for a healthy diet. Overeating will likely throw you out of ketosis.
While Splenda is technically allowed on keto, it still isn’t the best choice when it comes to keto sweeteners.
With industrially made foods like sucralose, there is always the question of how they will affect the body with long-term use.
When there is doubt about the safety of a food product, investigators sometimes conduct studies even after it has been initially approved.
The best way to determine if a product is safe for humans is to look at a large group of people who have used it for a long time. Unfortunately, no one has conducted such a study yet.
One small study found that people who used four packets (4 grams) per day of an artificial sweetener for an average of 5 years had a significantly increased risk of developing thyroid cancer compared to those who did not.[*]. While that study included sucralose, it did not distinguish between sucralose and other common artificial sweeteners. However, the results are still not completely reassuring.
In a 2016 Swiss study, relatively high doses of Splenda resulted in a higher risk of cancer when administered to male rats.[*]. These results have not been replicated in humans, and it is unlikely that humans would consume this much sucralose.
Splenda increases blood glucose levels
While sucralose will likely not be absorbed in the intestines, it can increase blood sugar and insulin levels.
A 2018 study showed that sucralose, although considered “metabolically inactive,” has an effect on blood sugar and insulin levels.[*]. Scientists believe that sucralose increases insulin production by stimulating the secretion of the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1).[*].
Some studies have found conflicting results showing that sucralose has no effect on GLP-1 production and therefore does not affect insulin levels[*].
Even if sucralose has no effect on blood glucose and insulin levels, it is not the only ingredient in Splenda. Keep in mind that by ingredients, over 90% of Splenda is dextrose (glucose) and maltodextrin, two of the highest carbohydrates on the glycemic index.
An often overlooked critical effect of sucralose is its effect on insulin sensitivity. Sucralose has been observed to reduce insulin sensitivity in both diabetic and non-diabetic individuals[*].
This is also a problem because sweeteners are often marketed to diabetics who already have insulin resistance.
Splenda may cause weight gain
The relationship between artificial sweeteners and body weight is confusing to say the least. Studies have found that people who use artificial sweeteners tend to have higher body weights than those who don’t[*].
The exact reason why artificial sweeteners cause weight gain is not understood. Some of the suggested mechanisms include:
- Increased rate of intestinal glucose absorption[*]
- Sending signals to beta cells in the pancreas to produce insulin[*]
- Altering sweet taste receptors in the gut, which may increase cravings for sweets[*]
Another possibility, according to some researchers, is that people who use artificial sweeteners may eat more to make up for the fact that they aren’t getting any calories from sugar-free foods or drinks.[*].
Splenda affects gut bacteria
The effect of sucralose on the gut microbiome in humans has not yet been extensively studied, but the effects in mice are worrisome.
In one study, researchers fed rats sucralose for six months at a dose equal to the acceptable daily intake for humans. Mice fed sucralose not only altered their microbiome, but also showed signs of chronic hepatitis[*].
In another study, consuming Splenda for 12 weeks reduced levels of lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria (both known to be beneficial) in the gut of rodents.[*]. Finally, sucralose is antibacterial, which means that it also inhibits the growth of certain bacteria[*].
Cooking with Splenda can be dangerous
Splenda encourages customers to cook and bake with their products. This may pose some risks to consumers because the effects of heat on Splenda under different conditions are not fully understood.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that sucralose is heat stable up to 450°F or 232°C. This only applies when Splenda is heated alone, which rarely happens in cooking.
This study found that in the presence of glycerol (a component of fat), heating sucralose produces potentially cancerous chemicals known as chloropropanol.[*].
What are the best sweeteners for keto?
If you’re disappointed about Splenda, there’s good news. Fortunately, there are still a few natural sugar-free sweeteners that are keto-friendly and safe to use.
First, a quick summary of what to avoid when it comes to sweeteners. On the ketogenic diet, nutritious sweeteners like regular sugar, honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar are all out of the question. Most sugar alcohols, including maltitol, sorbitol, and xylitol, are low in carbohydrates and calorie-free but are known for their side effects such as bloating.
All that said, there are still three proven options that are not only completely natural, but are also suitable for the ketogenic diet.
Stevia is a natural sweetener obtained from the plant of the same name. Not only is the sweetener sugar-free, but it also provides health benefits such as improved blood sugar control.* Symptoms of metabolic syndrome[*]. Stevia also has the following potential benefits:
- May reduce inflammation[*]
- Reduces insulin resistance in individuals with type 2 diabetes[*]
- Reduces oxidative stress through antioxidant activity[*][*]
- Protects dental health*
monk fruit extract
Many people love the taste of monk fruit, describing it as the closest thing to real sugar. This unique sweetener has been used in Asian cultures as a sugar substitute for centuries.
Like stevia, monk fruit is calorie-free, carb-free, and may have some health benefits such as reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.[*].
For these reasons, all Sweet Perfect Keto products use stevia and monk fruit as sweeteners.
Splenda is neither calorie free nor keto friendly. It is able to cause an increase in the levels of sugar and insulin in the blood. It also contains sugars, glucose and maltodextrin.
There are still concerns about the safety of Splenda, especially when used in cooking. Safer, keto-friendly sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit are becoming more and more popular as customers become more aware of the downsides of Splenda.
This may explain why Splenda sales are down[*] In the United States and in the whole world.
If you’re looking for a keto-friendly sweetener to use, opt for natural, keto-friendly options like stevia and monk fruit instead.