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Splenda; Another Potentially Dangerous Sweetener?


By James Donahue


In our continued quest to avoid sugar but still enjoy sweet things many health conscious consumers have turned to a new product now offered in American health food and grocery stores called Splenda.


The chemical name for this substance is Sucralose, produced by chlorinating sucrose. The process involves chemically changing the structure of the sugar molecules by substituting three chlorine atoms for three hydroxyl groups, according to a report by Dr. Joseph Mercola, D.O.


Splenda is a white crystalline powder that tastes like sugar, but is about 600 times sweeter than white table sugar. Mercola warns that it has been put on the American market even though there have been no long term human studies that prove that it is a safe product for human consumption. In fact, European countries are still taking a wait-and-see attitude about Splenda. You can't buy it there.


Ironically, sucralose was discovered in 1976 by researchers for Tate & Lyle Ltd., a British sugar refiner. In 1980, that company linked with Johnson & Johnson to develop sucralose. Johnson & Johnson formed McNeil Specialty Products Company in 1980 to commercialize sucralose.


It went on the market in Canada in 1991. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration approved the product in 1998. Diet RC cola became the first product to contain the sweetener that same year.


But not everybody likes Splenda. Users are reporting abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, and even heart palpitations, dizziness and shortness of breath after consuming the stuff. Is it just in their heads or is something wrong with the product?


Mercola reports that research in animals has caused various side effects that suggest the product might be doing this to human consumers as well. They include shrinking the thymus gland by up to 40 percent, enlarging the liver and kidneys, atrophy of lymph follicles in the spleen and thymus, reduced growth rate, decreased red blood cell count, hyperplasia of the pelvis, extension and even abortion of pregnancies and diarrhea.


The Mercola article raises concern about sucralose as a chlorinated molecule. "Some chlorinated molecules serve as the basis for pesticides such as D.D.T., and accumulate in body fat," he writes. "Sucralose may be . . . like ingesting tiny amounts of chlorinated pesticides, but we will never know without long-term independent human research."


In defense of the product, Johnson & Johnson claims that sucralose passes through the body unabsorbed. But government reports refute this. The FDA's Final Rule report states that from 11 to 27 percent of sucralose is absorbed in humans and the rest is excreted unchanged in feces. A Japanese Food Sanitation Council, however, reports as much as 40 percent of the ingested sucralose is absorbed.


Mercola also questions the long-range effect this product will have on the environment. He warns that nobody has determined if the waste from the fecal material we flush down our toilets remains stable and can react with other substances to form new compounds. He asks how this chemical will affect aquatic life and animals that may later consume it.


"Will sucralose begin to appear in our water supplies, just as some drugs are beginning to be found?" he asks.


Mercola concludes: "We will not know the answers to these questions for many years, if at all. One of the main reasons for this is that the FDA did not require an Environmental Impact Statement for sucralose, because in their words, 'the action will not have a significant impact on the human environment.'"




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