The artificial sweetener sucralose, sold under the brand name Splenda, is making headlines after the Center for Science in the Public Interest announced it was downgrading its safety rating of sucralose from “safe” to “caution” – meaning the additive “may pose a risk and needs to be better tested.” The decision is the result of a yet unpublished study from researchers in Italy who found that sucralose caused leukemia in mice, according to CSPI. The study will undergo further review by scientists to determine its credibility.
While CSPI doesn’t suggest that sucralose should be avoided, the organization does recommend consumers avoid the artificial sweeteners saccharin (Sweet 'N Low), aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal) and acesulfame potassium (Sunett and Sweet One).
This got us wondering: Are sucralose and these other sweeteners bad for your health? We asked Connie Diekman, RD, past president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and current Director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.
Connie Diekman, RD: “The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ position on nonnutritive sweeteners is that they can fit into a healthful eating plan. The position, which came out in May 2012, also indicates that, while there is limited evidence in human beings, no studies indicate harm to humans when people use sucralose.
What's important for consumers to remember is that all foods need to be consumed within an overall healthful eating plan. In addition, portions matter for everything we eat. Putting safety ratings on foods misses the point that what makes the biggest difference to the health of the body is how the overall diet nourishes the body.
As a registered dietitian, my advice to consumers is this: if you use nonnutritive sweeteners think about where you use them, which ones you use, whether you could use less of them, or use a variety of them. Most importantly though, I’d ask, ‘Are you getting all the fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy you need for health?’ Everything else comes after those foods.”
What's your preference for sweetening foods or beverages?