As scientists, one of the biggest issues we face is that, so far as the general public is concerned, we are nothing but villains and liars. We are for sale, able to be bought and sold by ‘big-business,’ and are entirely willing to falsify experimental results. We don’t care about the consumer. Our major concern is our buckets-of-money and giant McMansion. I hate to break it to you, but most of us (scientists) will never see a bucket of money (maybe a bucket of singles from that one time…). We drive little nondescript cars and sip three-buck-chuck like everyone else. If we work in research, we are only interested in the results and we will report the results with the utmost integrity.
One major example of the distrust of scientists is the belief that chemicals are bad (m’kay). In fact, many bands have gone out of their way to note that they are chemical free! We call this irrational fear of all things chemical, chemophobia. The fact is, everything is made up of chemicals. This includes apples, oranges, and even distilled water (a highly polar chemical solvent, it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless). Now, before your panties are all in a twist, I want my view understood: you are not so stupid as to believe that there aren’t chemicals all around you. Nor are you so stupid as to believe you can’t determine ‘good’ chemicals when compared to ‘bad’ chemicals.
But you will not believe the audacity of some people to try and blind you with science (couldn’t help the pun). Mercola.com (they aren’t getting my traffic) is a very high profile ‘alternative medicine’ webpage managed by Dr. J Mercola (yes – the one that worked with Dr. M Oz on Oprah). In my opinion, his website is filled with nothing but deceit and fear-mongering. In fact, they have an entire page dedicated to how Splenda (sucralose) is “chemically…more similar to DDT than sugar.”
Where does sucralose come from?
Sucralose isn’t made from sucrose- common table sugar. It is made from a very similar molecule with trade-secret chemistry, but is then converted via a patented 5-step chemical reaction designed to substitute three hydroxyl (-OH) groups on the sucrose molecule with chlorine (-Cl) groups.
As you can see, sucrose and sucralose are structurally exact – the only difference is that a red-dot (a hydroxyl group) is replaced by a green-dot (a chlorine group).
What does DDT look like?
When sucralose is put next to DDT as a 3-D structure, the two look nothing alike – DDT is a very boring molecule while sucralose is very complex. BUT, what if I wanted to scare you? What if I put a 2-D model of both side by side?
Both molecules have two rings. Both molecules have some chlorine atoms. Both molecules have chlorines attached to carbons. Both molecules were first synthesized in a science lab. But the similarities end there. You’ll note that the rings in DDT have extra lines indicating double bonds – sucralose has no double bonds. It would be reckless and irresponsible for a scientist to call DDT and sucralose more similar, chemically, than sucrose and sucralose.
Okay, Sucralose and DDT aren’t the same. But sucralose is still toxic.
You’re right – I have only proved, thus far, that DDT and Sucralose aren’t the same compound. This does not mean that sucralose is safe; lots of chemicals aren’t DDT and are still dangerous. So just how safe is sucralose?
Turns out, the FDA has an acceptable daily intake value of 5-milligrams-per-kilogram-body-weight (from 1999 – there may be an updated version at 9-mg/kg or 15-mg/kg). For a 70-kg person, that’s 350-mg/day. Splenda isn’t used much any more for much beyond coffee sugars, so you’ll probably never reach this amount.
Nevertheless, a study from Great Britain wanted to put human exposure to the test. “The first study was an ascending dose study conducted in 8-subjects, in which sucralose was administered at doses of 1, 2.5, 5 and 10 mg/kg at 48-hour intervals and followed by daily dosing at 2 mg/kg for 3 days and 5 mg/kg for 4 days.” “During the study there were no abnormal variations in body temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure or respiratory rate following either single ascending or continuous doses. In addition, no adverse comments attributed to sucralose were made. The general physical examinations at the end of each phase of the study were normal.” Basically, the folks they experimented on were A-OK at the end of the day.
In fact, sucralose is so safe (based on our current information) that a study from Pennsylvania looking at all of the studies done on Splenda concluded that “the ingredient, sucralose, is safe for use in food and that the sucralose-mixture product, Granulated Splenda (R) No Calorie Sweetener, is also safe for its intended use.” And it’s not the only study of its kind – here’s a much older one with the same conclusion.
Based on the evidence available, I conclude that sucralose is perfectly harmless to consume.
Sucralose and DDT are not chemically similar. Sucralose is safe to consume. Do not eat DDT. Being curious and cautious about what you eat are good traits; blindly following someone telling you that something is poison probably isn’t. I recommend you challenge me on this – bring me a study that shows that sucralose was damaging to a human being and I might just change my tune.
That’s the great thing about science – it changes every day. It’s kind of awesome to be standing on the cutting edge, changing science (for the better, we hope) and the way that scientists see the world. As always, if you have a question, comment, concern, complain, etc. – leave me a comment. I will respond to each and every one of them with the information that I have available to me.