Death By Sucralose: I’m Addicted To Artificial Sweeteners

I live, by all intents and purposes, an extremely healthy lifestyle. I exercise daily, I eat only nutritionally-dense, vitamin-rich foods and refrain from junk at all costs. But most of all, I have no vices whatsoever. Swearsies. I have always refrained from drinking, smoking, doing drugs, eating meat, having dairy, and drinking coffee. Ask anyone.

That is, until last year, when that final vice – the delicious caffeinated brown beverages of the Colombian variety – finally popped my vice-cherry (so to speak). So naturally, I sweetened the coffee with the artificial varieties available at the cafés.

And now I’m addicted.

And what’s worse, I know this stuff is killing me.

I had never drank an entire cup of coffee in my life until this past winter when I needed an extra energy boost in the midst of writing the masterpiece that is my novel (cough). But coffee, we can all admit, is an acquired taste, and I found it to be just too bitter for my palate.

First I just used honey, but then someone scared me with an article that claimed the glucose in honey was worse than refined white sugar. So I switched to agave, but then there was some concern that agave might be worse for your system than high-fructose corn syrup! So I switched to stevia, an all-natural sweetener with zero calories that doesn’t spike your blood-glucose level like sugar does. But I began to loathe the manufactured taste of the particular kind of stevia which was the only kind available in my area. So, low on options, I switched to Splenda. And Sweet n’ Low. And Equal.

Whether you believe the negative hype surrounding artificial sweeteners or not, nearly every health expert and layman can agree that all things should be consumed in moderation. (Even fruit and veg, when over-consumed, can be toxic.) So considering my healthy mantras on everything else, I should be smart enough to consume Splenda in moderation to avoid toxicity, right?

You would think.

Every morning I hit up my local Tim Horton’s for an extra large coffee, and grab a handful of  Splenda packets. The employees behind the counter always give me weird looks when I take more than two packets. In fact, they’ve recently enacted a policy of hiding Splenda packets so people don’t take too many. Customers have to explicitly request their artificial sweeteners, and even then, they only hand you two packets.

If only two packets would suffice. My extra large Timmy Ho’s usually requires about six Splenda packets to be sufficiently sweet-for-my-tooth.

And that’s not the only coffee of the day. While in the office, banging out incredibly well-written, timely, and funny articles for you dear readers (oh, don’t give me that look), I go through several java-gasms in the livelong day — all of which are coupled with an average of six Splenda packets.

I could easily be consuming 18-20 Splenda packets in a given day. Moderation much? Pshaw. I am living in ToxiCity, and I like it.

Some risks of sucralose and other artificial sweeteners have been reported to be as follows:

  • Sucralose is structurally similar to DDT and thus is fat-soluble, meaning that it’s stored in your body fat for years, and can cause deleterious effects over time.
  • It’s absorbed and metabolized after ingestion, turning into compounds (that still haven’t been studied) and making its way into the liver and kidneys.
  • Sucralose caused pelvic mineralization in rats.
  • There aren’t any long-term studies to analyzing effects of human consumption; there’s no telling what years of 18-20 packets per day might do.
  • Sucralose contains chlorine atoms — would you like another serving of bleach?
  • Sucralose is a neurotoxin.

There are many differing (and conflicting) opinions on the effects of artificial sweeteners, so it’s hard to keep the data straight, but I do know one thing for sure: It’s making me behave like an addict.

Recently, I attended a big media event that took place in a pub. Attendance was great: People were snapping photos, winning door prizes, mingling, eating, and energetically buzzing around the room. On every table at the pub were those sugar containers that usually contain packets of white sugar, raw sugar, and, you guessed it, the little pink packets of my second love: Sweet n’ Low. In all the mass frenzy of the crowd, I was off satiating my sucralose addiction without anyone catching wise to my deviant behavior.

With an air of subterfuge and slight of hand, I paid a pleasing visit to every table whilst the gents and ladies’ attention was diverted elsewhere, grabbing fistfuls of the little pink packets and stuffing them into my purse. By the end of the night, I blew town with over 60 packets of my sweet, sweet, lover.

What have I become?

Not long ago, after buying an innocent cup of Vanilla Rooibos from Starbucks, I was raiding their Equal stash when a barista came up to me and said “You’re the type of customer we hate.” She caught me out, and confirmed my worst fears. I am a scourge on society. It’s official now. Nature abhors me AND I’m destroying my innards to boot! Can anybody save me?

Seriously, can you? I would love it if someone out there could sufficiently scare me out of consuming artificial sweeteners. Help a sistah out, Blisstree readers. Please send me links, videos, photos, studies, documents, and doctor referrals to snap me out of this horrible disease. Is there a local ASA (Artificial Sweeteners Anonymous) chapter I can attend?

Please help me before I officially have to change my name to Christine Splendima.

(Photo: ThinkStock)

 

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    • Jesica

      While I appreciate your intention to make people more aware of some of the health risks and issues many of us face everyday, I feel it would be a good idea to fully inform yourself about such issues and not create a scare when it might not be warranted.

      I certainly wouldn’t recommend the consumption of artificial sweeteners either and I’m forced to avoid them myself because they give me horrible headaches, however I’m curious where you found that sucralose is neurotoxic. All the studies I read found no neurotoxic effects of sucralose or of it’s hydrolysis products. These studies also tested very high doses of sucralose (1000mg/kg, which would be 50g for a 50kg person) and found no neurotoxic effects.

      I would also like to point out that many foods, including something as simple as table salt (NaCl), contain chlorine atoms and that chlorine is necessary to human physiology (for example, nerve impulses require cholide ions). Anyone who goes swimming probably accidentally ingests more chlorine than from a few packages of artificial sweetener.

      I highly doubt artificial sweeteners are going to kill you, at least not more than many other chemicals and compounds we have contact with or consume on a regular basis. But I still think eating normal glucose and sucrose is better for you than these sweeteners. As for what you heard about honey: glucose is glucose is glucose. If it’s called glucose, it’s the same molecule and, while don’t know all the long-term negative effects artificial sweeteners may have, I do know that your brain almost exclusively uses glucose to function, so you shouldn’t shy away from it. Almost everything else you eat, besides proteins, is turned into glucose anyway.

      I would say rather than perpetuating rumors and unfounded beliefs about food I think it’s important to advocate moderation and the consumption of the most natural, non-manufactured foods possible.

      • Erin

        Well said, Jesica! There are a LOT of things wrong in this article.

        1. Sucralose is not structurally similar to DDT, nor is it fat-soluble. Sucralose is closer to sucrose, or table sugar, than it is to DDT. This is just another way to scare people — if it has chlorine atoms in it, it must be bad!

        2. Shocking, but that’s the way a lot of things are metabolized. Sucralose, like countless other compounds, is conjugated in the liver and excreted via the kidneys. Nothing weird or special happening there.

        3. The claim about “pelvic mineralization” is misleading. Perhaps if the author had done some research, she would have found that this is referring to the renal pelvis, not the bony ring that comprises your hips. I’ll bet she has no idea what “pelvic mineralization” even means, and just stuck that bullet point in this article to scare people, who also don’t know what it means. Also, just because it happens in rats given absurdly high doses of sucralose doesn’t necessarily mean the same would happen to a habitual Splenda-abusing human.

        4. In 2003, the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of sucralose was determined to be 15 mg/kg of bodyweight per day. If you weigh 150 lbs. (68 kg), you would have to consume 1.02 g of sucralose per day to hit that level. In 2008, the ADI was revised to to 9 mg/kg/day, or about 0.6 g. Keep in mind, a packet of Splenda contains very little sucralose proper; the bulk of the packet’s contents are dextrose or maltodextrin. If I were the author, I would be more concerned about the 60-70 extra calories per day she’s getting from the Splenda (dextrose and maltodextrin, like other carbohydrates, contain 3.75 calories per gram). It’s legally allowed to be labeled as sugar-free in the US, but it’s not; each packet is 3.36 calories.

        5. As Jesica pointed out, lots of things contain chlorine. Just because it is in bleach (sodium hypochlorite) doesn’t automatically make chlorine an element to be reviled.

        6. I’m guessing the author of this scare piece claims that sucralose is neurotoxic because aspartame is. In fact, the author is probably in more danger from all the caffeine in her numerous cups of coffee!

      • Christine Estima

        Hi Erin and Jessica, thanks for your comments. I’m glad my post could generate such discussion, and you have brought up some really important points about artificial sweeteners. However I’d like to reiterate something that is in the article which you may have glossed over. I never say in the article that I agree with these reported negative side-effects, I merely list them, as these have been some of the more popular claims against sucralose that I found in my research. I don’t agree with instigating fear either, and I welcome your counter-information regarding these claims, as it puts my fears over my addiction somewhat at ease! And as you say Jessica about moderation, I also echo that sentiment in my article as well. Moderation is the key to any healthy diet, which is the main issue I raise in this piece. I haven’t been exercising moderation when it comes to artificial sweeteners, which not only worries me, but also reflects a greater issue about control when you are addicted to something. As I say, the side effect I have been experiencing from artificial sweeteners is a change in my behavior: trying to get my fix any which way I can. I’m not trying to scare people, I’m trying to find a way to incorporate a balance. I hope that clears things up!
        And Erin, I agree, I should never have taken up coffee! The caffeine has become my second vice!
        Thanks!

    • Kitty

      You’re addicted to caffeine, obviously. And you, like so many people, have overindulged your taste buds to only enjoy extreme sweetness. You’d be experiencing this if you were just using sugar – it’s not the artificial sweeteners at all. I dare you to do what I did: for one month – limit your intake of sweet things that aren’t fruit or vegetables. Yes, this will involve cooking and adding herbs and spices to your food to make it taste good. Switch to water and milk as well. I promise, you’ll adjust after one month and everything you used to eat with too much added sugar or artificial sweeteners– will suddenly taste way too sweet.

      People refuse to admit that they just are desensitizing their taste buds with “sweet” and “salty” flavors in this country. I’m down to one packet of splenda in my iced green tea – because that’s how sensitive my “buds” are these days. And now regular soda, pasteries, and other desserts taste disgusting to me.

      Also, don’t be that person – the kleptomaniac that abuses complimentary things in restaurants. You’re part of the reason when menu prices go up – buying more sweeteners eats into their bottom line and then we ALL have to pay higher prices. Buy your own packets and take them in your purse if you want more than 2. Just remember – the chairs are complimentary to sit in, but it doesn’t mean you can walk out the door with them. Same goes for the sweeteners – two are complimentary, but it doesn’t mean you can take their whole supply.

    • Kitty

      And for the record, Sweet’n Low is made from granulated Saccharin, dextrose and cream of tartar. It is NOT sucralose.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet'n_Low

      “the little pink packets of my second love: Sweet n’ Low. In all the mass frenzy of the crowd, I was off satiating my sucralose addiction without anyone catching wise to my deviant behavior.”

    • FoxyKate

      I would be careful. Some vegan is going to come along and start judging you on your sweetener choices.

    • Barb

      Jessica,

      You’re addicted to artifical sweetners — and maybe caffeine. Please stop with the sweeteners — you know as well as I do from the research you’ve done, they will kill you and make you feel bad in the meantime.

      Monderation? Everything in Moderation? Would you dare play Russian Roulette in moderation? Phoey! You can’t do/eat/say a lot of things in moderation. That’s just an expression not to be taken literally.

      After 3 weeks “on” Splenda, I thought I was going crazy — headache, fatigue, mood swings. I loved the taste and zero calories! I ate pickles sweetened with Splenda and put it in my healthy Greek Yogurt. Well, no more! I’ll take my yogurt plain and eat fresh cucumbers instead of pickles.

    • sarah

      Omg ive started using splenda for the past year and i hear ya it is addicting. I started with one and now i feel i have to have two with every coffee. I have been trying to ween myself of the wretched thing. Only problem is can they put more white or brown sugar in each packet… i have to use 3-4 to get the same effect and i look like an idiot bursting out 4 packets and dumping it in my coffee while i get the same stares from the starbucks barista. atleast at timmies double double suffice cause their ussually watered down lol.

    • Kristine

      Give it up! I did the same thing– ended up getting really sick, having to get a colonoscopy and doctors found me to be severely anemic. I stopped Splenda and now I’m suddenly better.. I literally almost died.

    • messed around and got addicted

      I use about 20 packets of Splenda per large tea and I can have up to three of those a day! have you figured anything thing out yet?