What is sucralose?
Sucralose is a no-calorie sweetener that contributes sweetness to foods and beverages without adding calories or carbohydrates. It is made from a process that begins with regular table sugar (sucrose); however, sucralose is not sugar. Three select hydrogenoxygen groups on a sucrose molecule are replaced with three chlorine atoms, resulting in a no-calorie sweetener that is about 600 times sweeter than sugar. Although sucralose provides sweetness, its structure prevents enzymes in the digestive tract from breaking it down. Most consumed sucralose (about 85 percent) is not absorbed. Of the small amount absorbed (about 15 percent), none is broken down for energy, so sucralose does not provide any calories. All absorbed sucralose is excreted quickly in the urine.
Sucralose is found in beverages and foods like chewing gum, dairy products, canned fruits, syrups and condiments. Because it is stable at high temperatures, sucralose can be used in baked goods. However, a food containing sucralose may be slightly different than the same food made with sugar, because sugar also plays a role in the structure, texture and flavor of foods. Like all no and low-calorie sweeteners, only very small amounts of sucralose are needed to achieve the sweetness of sugar. To make measuring and pouring easier, low-calorie sweeteners like sucralose are typically blended with approved food ingredients. This is why a packet of sucralose sweetener seems equal in quantity to a packet of table sugar, for example.
Is sucralose safe to consume?
Yes. More than 100 safety studies representing over 20 years of research have shown sucralose to be safe. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use in specific food categories in 1998 and expanded the approval to all food and beverage categories in 1999. Leading global health authorities such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Food Standards Australia New Zealand and Health Canada have also found sucralose to be safe. The FDA established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for sucralose of 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg) per day.
For some people, it may raise blood sugar and insulin levels. It may also damage the bacterial environment in your gut, but this needs to be studied in humans. The safety of sucralose at high temperatures has also been questioned. You may want to avoid cooking or baking with it, as it may release harmful compounds. That being said, the long-term health effects are still unclear, but health authorities like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do consider it to be safe.