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What's the truth about Splenda?

I've been stewing about the news circulating recently about Splenda and it's got me a bit wound up (see Groups Asks Johnson & Johnson to Stop Lying About Splenda). So much so, in fact, that I've read posts on Adland for some time, but never before made one here.

Either Splenda's a case of very savvy marketing—as I'm sure J&J would like to claim—or its false, misleading advertising. I'm inclined to the latter, or what Jon Entine at Ethical Corporation has called "sleight of hand marketing" and "shifty advertising." I’ve been following the press around this for the last week, even got a note from a friend yesterday who, like me, was concerned about what she was hearing.

Why do I care? On a professional level, as a marketing consultant, I think industry self-regulation will only work if marketers adhere to rules--truth-in-advertising being an important one. On a personal level, I've been a Splenda user, in fact switched from pale blue packets to yellow over a year ago, because I believed the phrase "Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar" to mean that Splenda has sugar in it and is a healthier alternative to the all-chemical sweeteners. I was such a devotee that, until the last few days, I carried yellow packets in a cute orange wallet in my purse, just in case I went somewhere, had a cup ‘o Joe, and they didn’t stock it. AND I lobbied others to join me (including my mother and her boyfriend who was recently advised by his doctor to lower his sugar intake and decrease calories). "You want sugar without the calories, a sugar-substitute without chemicals?" I asked my mom.
(

It seems I got it wrong. It seems Splenda's sucralose is not sugar. It seems Splenda tastes like sugar because it’s infused with a sweet-tasting synthetic compound. Turns out the full rainbow of colored packets have one thing in common: chemicals. Heck, I'm sure I eat a ton of stuff with chemicals, so why do I care? Because Splenda’s marketing--not the least of which J&J’s clever use of the Sugar logo in some ads--suggests it’s a sugar product and that suggestion capitalizes on assumptions that it’s natural. It’s not and I feel duped. I would have been wise, though, to check with Whole Foods. Seems they decided a few years ago to stop selling all products with sucralose in them. Why? Because they’re skeptical of its safety and sucralose is not “real food” (quoted in a NYT piece in December). So what do others think of this? Are we dealing with an infringement of truth-in-advertising or is this marketing at its best? Are there other current examples of products/services out there that use the same approach? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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aiiobo's picture

I quick look around google and I am permanently turned off on the idea of using Splenda

claymore's picture

I believe the blurbs I included below comes from a sort of lobbying group, so take it with a grain of salt... errr... sugar. However, considering that the lawsuits (and numerous press releases over the last couple of months) are from the makers of Equal and the sugar industry, both of which have lost significant market share to the success of Splenda/sucralose, I also wouldn't be surprised if this was a scare-the-public witchhunt/smear campaign, regardless of the court outcome, designed specifically to bring people back to Equal and sugar. Big Business does this to the up'n'comers all the time.

Back in December, I did some looking around health forums and sites on the stuff and found mostly pro-Splenda or anti-Splenda gibberish - little to no middle ground. I believe the opinions expressed depended upon which press releases they read and blind trust of the honesty and accuracy of press releases..

Right now, until I see an objective examination on the subject, I'm not going to believe any of the hype. Spenda tastes good to me. So does cane sugar (I'm not a fan of sugar beet sugar). Stevia's ok. Equal sucks. And saccharine causes cancer if you eat 9,000 pounds of it a day.

- Clay

From http://www.ific.org/publications/brochures/sucralosebroch.cfm ...

What is sucralose made of?

Sucralose is derived from sugar through a patented, multi-step process that selectively substitutes three chlorine atoms for three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule. The tightly bound chlorine atoms create a molecular structure that is exceptionally stable.

Is sucralose safe?

Sucralose has an excellent safety profile. More than 100 scientific studies conducted over a 20-year period demonstrate that sucralose is safe for use as a sweetening ingredient. The data from the studies were independently evaluated by international experts in a variety of scientific disciplines, including toxicology, oncology, teratology, neurology, hematology, pediatrics and nutrition. Importantly, comprehensive toxicology studies, designed to meet the highest scientific standards, have clearly demonstrated that sucralose is not carcinogenic.

Which regulatory bodies reviewed the safety profile of sucralose?

Among the regulatory bodies that have evaluated the safety of sucralose are the U.S. FDA, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA); the Health Protection Branch of Health and Welfare Canada; Food Standards Australia/New Zealand, the European Union

claymore's picture

As for the "Sucralose is derived from sugar" thing, check the following definitions of "derive"

de·rive - v. de·rived, de·riv·ing, de·rives
v. tr.
To obtain or receive from a source.
To arrive at by reasoning; deduce or infer: derive a conclusion from facts.
To trace the origin or development of (a word).
Linguistics. To generate (a surface structure) from a deep structure.
Chemistry. To produce or obtain (a compound) from another substance by chemical reaction.

With this in mind, I think Splenda can legally say that their product is made from sugar.

The short history o' the product...

Sucralose was discovered in 1976 by researchers working under the auspices of Tate & Lyle Ltd., a large British sugar refiner. In 1980, Tate & Lyle arranged with Johnson & Johnson, the world's largest health care company, to develop sucralose. Johnson & Johnson formed McNeil Speciality Products Company in 1980 to commercialize sucralose.

Sounds sugary to me. Still, I think I have a preference for pure cane sugar. Yum.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Slick advertising has the public 'duped'. Their big claim of course is that it is made from sugar, and the public thinks that sugar is good for you! Among other things it causes insulin spikes which create all kinds of havoc within the body.
For more info see my post on Splenda at:
Also another post on the dangers of sugar at:

claymore's picture

Uhh... I doubt you'd find many people out there who believe that sugar is good for you.

Moderation is the key. And situps.

Dabitch's picture

Depends on what we compare it too. Sugar is definatly better for you than any aspartame that leads to the accumilation of formaldehyde in brain, organs and tissue.

I'll take natural raw cane sugar over any toxic shite any day. And honey over sugar. :) Do I eat too much? No, but I also don't drink several gallons of soda nor eat sweets so what the heck, I can have sugar in my coffee. weee! (in fact, I don't drink soda at all. I drink tea, Coffee, mineral waters, fresh juices, and lots of beer. Ha!)

noahr's picture

Stevia is clearly not made from any chemicals–I've eaten raw stevia leaves and they were sweet as all get out. It's cheap and you can grow your own. I've read (but never seen myself) that half of japanese soft drinks are sweetened with stevia for some years now and no one has ever gotten sick.

Unfortunately, the stevia supplements on the market are rare enough that they change an arm and a leg for it, but a little goes a long way.

Still, you're never gonna make a creme brulee with anything but sugar. Sugar has a lot of cool properties beyond just its sweetness that keeps it being a home staple.

Another thing I've heard about artificial sweeteners is that they mislead your body into thinking you're going to get this huge glucose rush, but then there isn't any. All of the digestive processes to break down that glucose still occur. So your body gets all screwed up, which can even cause headaches and stuff. You end worse off than if you're just had a regular Coke.

slydecix's picture

I hear splenda is a godsend for diabetics though.

The company's running into problems keeping up with the demand.

deeped's picture

There is a new proposal on stopping the horrific destruction of coffee. It will soon be forbidden to sugar your java. :)

AnonymousCoward's picture

If Splenda was made from sugar, the should be at least traces of CH2O3. (BTW, that's the chemical formula for table sugar.)

AnonymousCoward's picture

Problem is here in the U.S. the FDA forbids Stevia to be labled as a sweetner so it has to be sold as a food supplement. That means you won't find it in supermarkets or grocery stores so you have to go to a health food store or buy it online.

I've been using Stevia for quite awhile now and I promote it to everyone I know. Because some of the qualities of sugar can't be replaced, as you mentioned, I still use it for those reasons.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Yeah that's one of Splenda's big selling points. It does not creat the insulin spike that sugar does. But since it's chemically created it creates other problems. Apparently it used substances such as chlorine and phosgene, a poisonous gas.

"The Centers for Disease Control has even described one of the ingredients used in Splenda as a major chemical used to make plastics and pesticides."