When we think about artificial sweeteners, do we really know what they are and what’s in them?
Why is one sweetener better than another and how are they made?
Of the abundant low-carb sweeteners available, sucralose has been adopted by many individuals on a ketogenic diet.
The use of sucralose and other artificial sweeteners to transition from using and being reliant on sugar has become an important factor for many who are keto.
Hence today we dive further into finding out if sucralose really is keto-friendly and whether it is a sweetener that you should be consuming regularly.
What is Sucralose?
Chances are that you’ve come across Sucralose without even realizing it!
The common trade name it’s sold under is “Splenda” in tiny yellow packets and is widely available in many grocers and stores worldwide.
Sucralose is a non-nutritive zero-calorie artificial sweetener that is very similar to sugar but is 600 times sweeter than sugar. (*)
Is Sucralose Natural?
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener made in a laboratory in which some of the bonds of the sugar molecules were modified so your body does not digest or absorb it. (*)
Is Sucralose A Sugar? Sucralose VS Sugar
Hence while it comes from sucrose, it is not technically sugar and may mislead keto consumers.
Therefore, as sucralose doesn’t function in the body like sugar, it also serves no nutritional purpose, has zero calories, and provides zero net carbs.
However, you don’t necessarily need sucralose to combat sugar addiction and diabetes. Natural sweeteners and lifestyle changes are other alternatives as well.
Is Sucralose Healthy?
Other than being keto and able to help you cut back on your sugar and calorific intake, there have not been any proven health benefits to consuming sucralose. (*)
Though it can be helpful especially for individuals who are keto, diabetic, or for individuals who have an addiction to sugar and sweet foods. This is because anything that helps you cut back on sugar input will result in weight loss, lower blood glucose levels, and potentially other health benefits.
Is Sucralose Safe?
As of today, sucralose has been FDA approved since 1998 with over 100 studies done to reach its decision. According to the FDA, the “acceptable dietary intake” (ADI) of sucralose is 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. (*)
That works out to a whopping 23 sucralose packets of Splenda. However, newer research that has come out suggests that it may have undesirable side effects.
Is Sucralose Bad For You?
Just as many individuals still have concerns about the long terms effects of sucralose on human health that may have not been detected yet.
There is no definitive answer on whether sucralose is “bad” for you. Hence the answer to it being safe depends on the amount you consume, how you consume it, and your personal wellness goals.
Effects on Blood Sugar and Insulin
Generally, sucralose does not impact blood sugar and insulin levels by itself, as it has a glycemic index of zero.
Though sucralose often may contain added maltodextrin and dextrose as these other elements make it measure more like sugar. (*)
These bulkers often can play a role in the impact of sucrose on the blood glucose level. If you find your blood sugar level staying high after consuming a sucralose sweetener, it may be due to these bulking agents.
Studies have shown sucralose may negatively affect the very people who are pursuing a lifestyle to decrease blood sugar or insulin levels.
Another study found that sucralose increased blood sugar levels and insulin levels while decreasing insulin sensitivity.
Whilst in a small study of 17 individuals dealing with severe obesity who did not regularly consume sucralose reported that sucralose elevated blood sugar levels by 14% and insulin levels by 20%
Though, if you consume sucralose on a regular basis, individuals may experience changes in their blood sugar levels and insulin levels.
Sucralose and Gut Health
A topic of great interest recently has been gastrointestinal health. A large portion of our immune system is located in the gut and our gut health plays a major role in a healthy immune system.
The bacteria found in our gut tract play a beneficial role in our health. A study on sucralose and the gastrointestinal microbiome found that sucralose altered the gut microbiome by decreasing the beneficial gut bacteria by 50%.(*)
Most importantly the study found that after 12 weeks had passed from the date of the study, that the beneficial bacteria in the gut tract had still not recovered.
Which meant there was a lingering effect of the sucralose on the gut tract long after sucralose consumption had stopped, leaving the gut negatively affected.
Sucralose Side Effects
One of the biggest causes for concern would be that studies have shown that sucralose causes cancer in animals and may also cause cancer in humans.
However, it is difficult to conclude and obtain human evidence on whether sucralose causes cancer or long-term effects.
Other side effects reported include migraines and that it can actually lead to more sugar cravings instead of curbing it.
On the contrary, there has not been enough data to prove these reported claims as there has not been enough research done.
Can You Cook with Sucralose?
Continuing on the subject of health, individuals on a ketogenic diet should take into consideration that while sucralose keto is a great alternative for sugar for drinks and food recipes, it is not a great substitute for baked good recipes.
Sucralose was considered to be safe and heat resistant to higher temperatures, however, new research is finding otherwise.
Sucralose Is Bad for You When Heated
When subjected to high temperature, sucralose was found to degrade, react and release harmful chloropropanols as opposed to regular sugar and maple syrup that may usually be used in recipes. (*)
Whilst current research points to chloropropanols between chlorine atoms in a source of food together with food contact material and lipids, we know that chloropropanols may lead to infertility and cancer in men due to their toxic nature.
Does Sucralose Affect your Weight?
Generally, we see brands of sucralose that have zero or no calories often marketed as great options for weight loss.
However, brands like “Splenda” which has sucralose don’t seem to have any positive effect on weight loss. (*)
Are there Carbs in Sucralose?
Keto-friendly individuals have long debated on whether sucralose has carbs in it or it doesn’t.
While sucralose keto may itself be free of carbs and have no calories, Splenda packets of sucralose contain dextrose which contributes to both calories and carbs.
Thus while pure sucralose contains no carbs, a little research should be done when purchasing and consuming sucralose as they may have additives with sucralose that may contain carbs.
Is Sucralose Keto Friendly?
When it comes down to determining whether sucralose is keto or not, the answer lies within your own definition of the keto diet.
Do you define a keto diet as being sugar-free and within the margins of keto macros? If the answer is yes, we can assume sucralose is keto-friendly.
Thus we can actually classify sucralose keto as dirty keto – A ketogenic diet that doesn’t actually take the quality of your food into account.
However, this keto-friendly low carb approach focus on using low carb substitutes like sucralose although keto-friendly is not centered around a holistic healthy approach and does not promote healthy eating habits.
It replaces the cleaner keto eating option with looser eating habits that may promote weight loss in the short term but maybe detrimental and be bad for your body in the long term.
Avoid these on a Ketogenic Diet
Even though keto-friendly sweeteners are zero-calorie and zero-carb, losing weight and optimizing your health on them can be a challenge.
Many different types of low-calorie and no-calorie sweeteners have shown that they are may stimulate a negative health impact and may also lead to an increased craving for sweet foods, leading to higher calorie consumption and gain of weight instead of decreasing it.
Artificial (Synthetic) Sweeteners
If possible, it is recommended to avoid non naturally occurring artificial sweeteners as substitutes for not only a ketogenic diet but for sugar as well. These artificial sweeteners that are produced using synthetic methods have a complex effect on our health.
At best, artificial sweeteners may not cause any adverse effects and help to satisfy your sugar cravings without any issues. However, at worst, they may lead to negative effects on your gut biome that may contribute to weight gain and diabetes, stimulating your appetite and causing increased eating habits, and also may cause inflammation of various regions of the brain in obese individuals.
Amongst keto sugar substitutes, aspartame is perhaps the most widely used for food and beverages in the United States and elsewhere.
Commonly sold under the name “Equal” and formerly known as “NutraSweet” pure aspartame is 200 times sweeter than table sugar. It is a synthetic sweetener that was created in laboratories to combat weight gain.
It has been shown in studies not to cause insulin resistance, does not raise blood sugar levels, and is considered safe when used in moderation by the FDA.
Though it has been considered safe, there have been reports from people that have suffered side effects such as headaches and dizziness amongst others. (*)
Results from trials have been mixed hence leading some researchers to believe that its safety requires further study.
Coconut sugar is a surprising addition to the list that should be avoided!
While coconut oil and coconut flour are known to be perfectly fine and acceptable for those on keto, coconut sugar isn’t. As it’s not absorbed as quickly as regular sugar, it ends up being a sugar that can kick you out of your ketosis.
A tablespoon of coconut sugar is known to have 15 grams of carbs per spoon. Therefore it is considered too high in carbs to be enjoyed as a low carb sweetener option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Sucralose Break a Fast?
As research is limited on the subject, understanding whether sucralose is bad for fasting is debatable.
Though pure sucralose should not break a fast as it contains no calories. However, since sucralose is known to be combined with other bulking agents like maltodextrin and dextrose, these bulking agents could be enough to trigger an insulin response to break your fast depending on your consumption.
What is the best natural sweetener to use?
The best natural sweetener would be a tie between the monk fruit sweetener and stevia depending on your preference as they both are some of the best available alternatives on the market for a keto sweetener.
Monk fruit: This is a sweetener made from monk fruit extract that is extremely concentrated and can be found to be up to 250 times sweeter than sugar. It has zero carbs, zero calories, zero sugars and may also help to improve blood sugar regulation.
Though it can act as an oxidant and fight inflammation, keep in mind that it is sometimes mixed with fillers such as allulose and erythritol to make it measure more like sugar, which is best avoided.
Stevia: This is a sweetener extract made from a herb commonly referred to as the “sugar leaf”. Stevia can be up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar and has been found to promote health as well.
It can help improve sugar and insulin levels, blood pressure and also decrease inflammation too. Best of all is that it is relatively easy to find stevia in a liquid and powdered form that is free from any fillers.
The major stumbling block for certain individuals lies in its taste. As it doesn’t taste like sugar, has a bitter aftertaste, and may cause a digestive issue for some.
What is the safest artificial sweetener to use?
Erythritol is quite possibly the only one that can be considered safe from an artificial sweetener point of view. Though it has been marketed and promoted as a natural sweetener and is found in nature, but is in fact a synthetic sweetener.
It also contributes the least calories and carbs from all the sugar alcohols sweeteners. It has also been found to improve blood vessel function in people with type 2 diabetes as it acts as an antioxidant.
Lastly, it has been known not to raise blood sugar or insulin levels while also not presenting many side effects at higher consumption dosages.
The Bottom Line: Is Sucralose Suitable for a Keto Diet?
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is suitable to be used when following the ketogenic diet of limiting carb intake and reducing added sugar consumption to reach the state of ketosis.
We learned that pure sucralose is carb-free and is also sugar-free which is a great alternative to combat weight gain, sugar cravings and contains zero calories.
While it is calorie-free, it also contains zero nutritional value. So while a little sucralose may not hurt you, frequent consumption is not advised either.
Sucralose may be used to combat a sugar addiction, though it is generally not one that is recommended as with any other keto replacement options.
As any keto sugar-free sweeteners can sustain the addiction leading to a possible and likely relapse in the future.
Other keto alternatives such as stevia and monk fruit are healthier and much better keto sweeteners that are available on the market.
Not only are these keto sweeteners safer, but they also come with a few health benefits in comparison to sucralose.
Ultimately for those on a keto diet, sucralose can be used for individuals who still enjoy the joy of sweets in their life.
However, as it is not the only option available on the market. Individuals should identify the approach and keto-friendly sweetener that best suits them and their lifestyle to achieve a long-term keto and low carb successful lifestyle.