Registered dietitian nutritionist Keri Gans has partnered with SPLENDA® Brand to debunk common myths associated with sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in the original SPLENDA® Sweetener Products.
You know what drives me crazy? When misinformation makes it to my patients, especially related to sucralose and other NLCS (no and low calorie sweeteners). There have been news headlines claiming that these rigorously tested sweetening options have adverse impacts on blood glucose regulation, but that just isn’t true.
At a time when tools to reduce calorie and carbohydrate intakes, like SPLENDA® Sweeteners, are needed most, clouding our understanding with claims that aren’t evidence-based makes my job as a credentialed nutrition professional difficult. It also confuses just about everyone else.
I have some suspicions about how this particular myth that sucralose causes blood sugar to increase began to spread. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first I wanted to provide some background on different types of research. The research on sucralose is done in many ways. Some in cells or tissues completely isolated from an organism, some in whole animals (flies, mice and rats are popular). And research is also done in, well – us, humans!
These various types of studies have different relevancies and applications for you and me alike, as well as degrees of strength in their ability to prove one of the most important concepts to understand when looking at research: cause and effect.
- Cause and Effect: Basically, one thing has caused another thing when tested. If we think that X will cause Y, we need to test that with an experiment. If we introduce X item and find that Y has actually happened as a result of X being there, X has been the cause of Y.
Research called clinical studies, also known as clinical trials, are the “gold standard” in proving cause and effect in humans. We can apply these results to help us make decisions about the strength of evidence behind sucralose effects on blood sugar, or glucose.
Refer to this helpful infographic (pdf) to visually see what I mean.
Studies specifically designed to prove cause and effect of sucralose on blood glucose control in humans continue to show no effect. In fact, a recently published 12-week, well-designed clinical study in humans strengthens the collective evidence that sucralose has no effect on blood glucose control.
So then if the very best studies are showing no effect of sucralose on blood glucose control in humans, what studies are showing an effect? My hunch on what is driving the misinformation is one study done in mice and humans that received a lot of media attention related to NLCS, including sucralose, and blood glucose control. This study was not, I repeat, was not able to prove cause and effect in humans:
- The researchers jumped to conclusions based on poor data treatment and analysis. The methods, analysis and conclusions of this study had so many problems – see them all here.
- The study never even tested sucralose in humans – so no cause and effect! While the researchers did do a single test in 7 people of a different NLCS, results of that test were actually indicative of NO effect!
- The study wholly ignored the larger body of rigorously conducted evidence showing sucralose (and other NLCS) to have no effect on blood glucose regulation.
Bottom line, on the spectrum of strength in scientific evidence – cellular to animal to humans – studies that are designed to directly test for possible effects are the final word, and the most reliable of these are well-designed studies in humans. The collective body of evidence from both animal and human clinical studies shows sucralose has no effect on glycemic control. This is also reinforced by a recent Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics nutrition practice guideline report that you can read here. I’m so glad there is good science to help bust myths and meet misinformation with rationality.
Read more about how sucralose is used by the body in this blog.