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Is SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener Bad for You? Top Myths about Sucralose Side Effects

Posted on September 2nd, 2014. on SplendaLiving.com
Guest Blogger: Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Can a freshly roasted turkey make you sneeze? If you had asked a friend of mine a few years ago you would have heard a resounding “Yes!” He then would have offered as evidence that he always started to sneeze the minute he sat down for his family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

The problem with his “evidence” was that it was anecdotal. That means it was a personal account of something that happened to him that was not based on research and was not necessarily true. In this case, his sneezing had nothing to do with the turkey. As he later learned, he had an allergy to sunflowers and his sneezing was triggered by the floral centerpiece that graced their dining room table every Thanksgiving!

Unfortunately, there is a lot of other anecdotal, or self-reported, information out there that gets passed off as evidence of a problem when scientific research indicates the “problem” is not, in fact, a real one. Many symptoms, like sneezing, are so common, almost anything can be the cause. But when the wrong connection is made between something and a personal response, it can set in motion a myth, like my friend’s mistaken turkey-and-sneezing connection.

Low-calorie sweeteners is a topic that has been particularly subject to misinformation that has led to myths. This is worrisome, because some people still ask: “Is sucralose bad for you?”, and “Are there sucralose side effects?”, even though the total body of evidence shows they are safe and without side effects. Since these myths are nothing to sneeze at, I’d like to set the record straight here!

Top Side Effect Myths Related to Sucralose

1. Gastrointestinal Discomfort and Bloating
If you eat and drink a varied diet you may occasionally experience gas, bloating and changes in your bowel habits. That’s normal digestion at work. Even if you eat the same thing every day, changes in your emotions can impact how well you digest your food. Given the high-stress lives many people lead today, it’s important to remember that, before blaming something you’ve eaten for your stomach rumblings.

The good news is sucralose has not been found to cause digestive problems (see Fact vs Fiction: Sucralose Dangers and Side Effects). Data from over 100 studies show sucralose has no side effects, but that news may not have reached all of us who are trying to eat wisely. Instead, we tend to hear more alarming news about studies whose results contradict the available research. For example, some of the digestive health myths about sucralose stem from a small study in rats done in 2009 that was actually found to be unreliable by experts.

2. Allergies or Allergic Reactions
One of the most common allergy-related myths associated with SPLENDA® Sweetener Products has to do with corn allergies, since dextrose and maltodextrin are used as bulking ingredients in SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener Packets and Granulated. People with a diagnosed allergy to corn should be able to use SPLENDA® Sweetener Products without any problem. It is the protein in certain foods that usually triggers allergic reactions, and all of the corn-derived ingredients in SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener Products come from the starch fraction of corn. Since it is highly purified it should not contain any appreciable amount of protein. If there is concern, a good option is the SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Minis, which do not contain any corn-derived ingredients.

As for other allergies or food intolerances, anyone who has a medical condition making it necessary to avoid certain ingredients in the food supply must be vigilant about reading labels. Fortunately all of the ingredients in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products are ones that research does not associate with allergic response, and they are all listed on the packaging. You can also call the SPLENDA® Consumer Care Center at 1-800-777-5363, or visit SPLENDA.com for more information.

3. Headaches
If you do an Internet search for “causes of headaches” you’ll get nearly 30 million hits! Counting them all would give anyone a headache, but I’m sure there are people scanning those lists eager to find the cause for their misery. Yet with so many possibilities, it’s easy to jump to the wrong conclusion, especially when anecdotal information is involved (see point #1 above).

If you believe sucralose can cause headaches, relief is on the way. Scientists have conducted numerous studies to determine if sucralose causes side effects and concluded it does not. Research shows that sucralose has no side effects, and is not linked to any known triggers of headaches. Of course, other ingredients people may be sensitive to might be found in a food or drink sweetened with sucralose, so individuals should carefully evaluate everything in their diet when considering possible causes for headaches. It’s also important to remember that headaches are one of those common complaints that can be caused by non-dietary factors, like stress, worrying, and changes in our environment, which can be frustrating for those who suffer from headaches.

It’s good to know the best scientific evidence available tells us there are no side effects from sucralose, so if you hear rumors about them, don’t be misled by anecdotal information. Instead, check out the facts on Snopes.com (make sure you read the Snopes.com response, past the “example” provided) – and lay the myths to rest!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.