PureInsight | October 1, 2006
How Sweet It Isn't
Health advocacy group calls on FDA to revoke its approval of Splenda
"We are most concerned that the public be informed through us, through
the FDA and through every other possible way we can, that Splenda poses
a health risk," proclaims Jim Turner, Chairman of the Board of the
health advocacy group Citizens for Health. "And we are very concerned
that the advertising being done for Splenda disguises that fact."
Recently, his organization submitted a Citizen Petition to the U.S.
Food & Drug Administration (FDA) calling on the agency to revoke
its approval of the popular artificial sweetener.
For many who enjoy the product in everything from diet soft drinks to
home-baked cookies, Splenda seems like a dream come true. Unlike sugar,
Splenda is calorie free - a plus for many weight-conscious consumers
seeking a healthy alternative to favorite sweet treats.
With a taste said to rival synthetic sweeteners of the past, sucralose
(trade name Splenda) has been a favorite among consumers in the handful
of years it has been sold in the U.S. From 2000 to 2004, Splenda sales
rose from 3 to 20 percent of the artificial sweetener market, and now
more than triple the sales of either Equal (made from aspartame) or
Sweet 'N Low (saccharin).
However, many Splenda users have reported several adverse reactions
from using the product. Turner describes reports of varying degrees of
gastro-intestinal problems resulting from Splenda use. "... from
irritation all the way up to serious bleeding ulcers requiring
surgery," says Turner. Other health professionals report cases of
cardiac problems, various allergic reactions, and more.
"The sheer number of complaints on the Internet warrants an
investigation," said Turner in a press release for Citizens for Health.
"Most of the testing on the safety of sucralose was conducted by the
manufacturer, McNeil Nutritionals. If the manufacturer is as sure about
the safety of the product as is claimed, it too will join us in the
call for an independent investigation into what, if any, side effects
can accompany the use of the product."
Yet, on its Web site, the makers of Splenda boast: "the safety of
sucralose is well documented in more than 100 scientific studies
conducted over a 20-year period." So why weren't these initial studies
able to find problems with Splenda?
"One of the points we're making is that they did," explains Turner.
"One of the things we're doing with the FDA petition is that we are
refocusing the agency's attention on the studies that were submitted.
We want them to be re-evaluated by the [FDA], but we also want to get a
much broader public view of them, so that the public understands that
the kinds of problems that they're experiencing in their anecdotal
reactions are problems that were identified in the studies that were
But history has shown that such a process could meet with resistance.
Before Splenda, aspartame dominated the artificial sweetener market.
Complaints surrounding this artificial sweetener (Equal and NutraSweet
are trade names of aspartame) have also plagued it - many health
professionals argue that aspartame is a deadly neurotoxin that is
responsible for many health concerns, some of which have been quite
serious. In light of this evidence, for years many have lobbied the FDA
to reconsider its approval of aspartame.
Turner points out that many more studies were done on aspartame than on
Splenda. He observes that among these studies there is almost a 50/50
split between those paid for by the company, which say that no problems
exist, and those that are independent, which find problems. And, like
Splenda, aspartame manufacturers and their scientists continue to tell
consumers that the product is safe. "Just like aspartame, which
achieved marketplace approval by the FDA when animal studies clearly
demonstrated its toxicity, sucralose also failed in clinical trials
with animals. Aspartame created brain tumors in rats. Sucralose has
been found to shrink thymus glands (the biological seat of immunity)
and produce liver inflammation in rats and mice," writes physician and
biochemist James Bowen, M.D., in his 2005 article "The Lethal Science
of Splenda, a Poisonous Chlorocarbon."
One of the more controversial topics surrounding the artificial
sweetener is Splenda's advertising slogan that many say misleads
consumers. "Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar" say ads for
Splenda in print and television. While the company actually claims that
Splenda is not natural, many argue that its famous slogan makes
consumers think otherwise.
"Any carbohydrate that is combined with chlorine [can create sucralose]
- it could be beets, it could be carrots, it could be almost anything -
they use sugar only to be able to make the slogan," explains Turner.
"It should actually say, â€˜made from chlorine,' and whatever they want
to say after that."
In fact, Splenda chemically resembles the controversial pesticide DDT
(found to cause organ, genetic, and reproductive damage) more than it
does sugar."In the coming months we can expect to see a river of media
hype expounding the virtues of Splenda/sucralose... In terms of
potential long-term human toxicity we should regard sucralose with its
chemical cousin DDT, the insecticide now outlawed because of its
horrendous long-term toxicities at even minute trace levels in human,
avian, and mammalian tissues," writes Bowen.
In addition to the petition filed initially, the Citizens for Health
organization is continuing to collect data to add to their case against
Splenda. Turner says that if the FDA fails to act (or act within a way
that they find inappropriate), they plan on bringing the case to court.
Turner expresses that his main concern is public well-being. "Anybody
who is using Splenda now needs to go off of Splenda for a minimum of
six weeks and just observe how their health is before and after they go
off Splenda. My prediction is that a large number of people will not go