The abusive use of sugar generates innumerable problems for our body and metabolic activity. Because of this, many people replace it with artificial sweeteners such as sucralose. Although health authorities confirm that sucralose is totally safe to eat, there are a few scientific studies that link it to various health problems.
That is why we wanted to analyze what truthful information currently exists about this sweetener, the benefits (for replacing sugar) and some derived problems, as well as a complete study on the use of this type of products.
What exactly is sucralose?
Sucralose is a artificial sweetener without caloric intake to replace common sugar. It is made from sugar in a multi-step chemical process, where 3 hydrogen-oxygen groups are replaced by several chlorine atoms.
This chemical conversion was discovered in 1975 at a University in the United Kingdom, as in many cases, due to an error of interpretation.
Currently, it is a sweetener widely used by the public and one of the most popular.
Other known sweeteners:
Sucralose is commonly used as a sugar substitute in cooking and dessert recipes, both for cooking and baking. In addition, in the food industry, it is used massively to achieve the right flavor with the minimum contribution of calories.
This sweetener does not provide any energy value nor calories, and are not taken into account when used as a sugar substitute. At the level of sweetening power, it is considered 400 to 800 times sweeter than common sugar, with the advantage that it does not provide the common bitterness of this type of products.
Effects on blood sugar and insulin production
Some scientific studies have not linked the consumption of sucralose with an increase in blood glucose levels, as well as insulin. However, as in many investigations, new ones come out that provide contradictory data to the first, so, in short, more research is needed to confirm this.
In fact, several studies in healthy people with adequate body weight have found no effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. However, performed on obese people does. [Effect of sacralose and incretin]
Of the conclusions that are obtained, there are those that if it is consumed frequently, there will be no changes in insulin levels and blood sugar. On the other hand, sporadic consumption can generate peaks of these elements in the blood.
Main drawbacks of sucralose
Baked sucralose could be harmful
Although this sweetener is considered to have good heat resistance power, some scientific studies do not think the same.
At high temperatures (> 180ºC), the chemical structure of sucralose seems to decompose and act with other compounds, so it can produce negative reactions.
It seems that at high temperatures, it begins to break down and interact with other ingredients.
In fact, a scientific study identified several harmful compounds related to chloropropanols when sucralose and glycreol were heated to high temperatures. It is known that these types of substances may be related to cancer risk.
Still, more research is needed to corroborate these investigations.
Does sucralose affect gut health?
Another problem that can relate sucralose to our body is possible problems related to intestinal health.
Specifically, these problems may be related to the alteration of the intestinal microflora, which is linked to adequate health and disease prevention.
They can improve digestion, benefit immune function and reduce the risk of many diseases.
These studies have been done, in the first instance, on animals (rats), so more research is needed.
These studies showed in a short period (3 months), that sucralose reduced by 60% on average the number of anaerobic bacteria (living in the absence of oxygen) located in the intestine. This type of microorganisBifidobacteria-like and lactic acid-related drugs were significantly reduced, and positively influence digestive health.
Does sucralose make you gain or lose weight?
There are claims that replacing sugar with any sweetener is positive for weight loss, since no calories are provided.
However, not everything is so simple, since some scientific trials have been found where they find no relationship between the consumption of sweeteners and the slimming effect.
However, other studies do link the consumption of sweeteners with weight loss, simply by eliminating sugar, although it will depend on the habits of consumption and abusive use of sugar.
Is sucralose safe?
At this point, it is convenient to delve into the risks that the consumption of sucralose can represent or, on the contrary, its safety and innocuousness.
The relationship between health and sweeteners is very controversial. There are claims that these compounds are totally harmless, but more recent studies suggest that there may be some side effects related to our metabolic activity.
In some cases, it may increase the level of blood glucose as well as insulin. It can also affect the bacterial microflora of our gut. All these data, although they have been studied in scientific trials, have not been fully supported by the community.
To high temperatures, sucralose may produce toxic and carcinogenic substances. Therefore, until there is more information about it, it is advisable to dispense with its use in baking at temperatures above 120 ºC.
The long-term effects of this sugar substitute have not been tested and it is considered safe by health authorities.
Do artificial sweeteners damage our bacterial flora?
At this point, we want to find out if all sweeteners can really affect our bacterial flora, with the risks that this represents.
The bacteria in our intestine play an essential role in many processes in our body.
Bacteria can protect our digestive system against infections of all kinds, in addition to producing secondary metabolites, nutrients and vitamins that we can take advantage of to strengthen our immune system.
An imbalance in the bacterial flora, produced for example when we drink alcohol in excess or a poorly planned diet, can cause short-term diseases. This problem is known as dysbiosis (low presence of healthy microorganisms).
Dysbiosis can increase the risk of inflammatory bowel problems, irritable bowel syndrome, and celiac disease. It can also be related to our body weight.
They can change the balance of your gut bacteria
Therefore, and in the interest of protecting our precious treasure that are healthy bacteria, the involvement of sweeteners such as sucralose in microbial flora has been analyzed in several studies.
Recent impact research has found serious conclusions to claim that artificial sweeteners can intervene in gut health by changing bacterial balance.
Those findings have been found in animals, specifically rats, but it’s thought the same may happen in tests done on humans. Among the sweeteners analyzed are sucralose, aspartame, saccharin and acesulfame potassium.
These same conclusions have also found that the microbiological imbalances Commented do not happen when water with sugar is provided.
It must also be concluded that the effects produced by these artificial sweeteners can vary widely between different people.
Are artificial sweeteners less harmful than sugar?
Finally, we can ask ourselves the most important question:
Do I consume sugar, sweetener, or nothing at all?
Despite the current concerns of the population in relation to artificial sweeteners, it is interesting to know that the consumption of sugar in high amounts is harmful in any of the cases.
In fact, most scientific reports and medical recommendations advise limiting the intake ofand additional sugar to the minimum possible.
An excess of sugar produces alterations and problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cavities, worsens mental health and increases the risk of heart disease.
Confirming this, it should also be added that artificial sweeteners are still considered a safe option for most people, according to health authorities. In addition, they can help us limit sugar consumption in the short term.
On the other hand, there is evidence linking high intake of artificial sweeteners in the long term with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
The ideal situation is not to consume added sugars (except those that carry natural foods) and limit the maximum use of sweeteners.
So… can I substitute all sugar for sweeteners?
Short-term use of artificial sweeteners has not been shown to be harmful. They can help us reduce caloric intake, especially if we are regular to consume a lot of sweets or sugar in coffee and drinks.
However, the evidence on their long-term safety is mixed and can upset the balance of gut bacteria. In general, artificial sweeteners offer some advantages and also disadvantages, and their consumption must be decided on a case-by-case basis.