Though it has been commercially available in the United States for over a decade and in the European Union since 2005, Splenda is still thought of as a relatively new product in the artificial sweetener industry. This despite the fact that is it now an ingredient in thousands of products, ranging from breakfast cereals to yogurt and ice cream. One of the reasons Splenda has grown so fast in popularity is that, unlike other artificial sweeteners, Splenda does not break down at high temperatures, meaning that it can take the place of sugar in many products.
Aside from maltodextrin or dextrose, which are added for bulk, the primary ingredient in Splenda is the zero-calorie artificial sweetener sucralose, first discovered in 1976 by scientists looking for, oddly enough, a new insecticide. This rather unfortunate origin has dogged sucralose since it was first approved, as, like many insecticides, sucralose is a chlorocarbon, a type of organic compound containing at least one covalently bonded chlorine atom.
In the case of sucralose, three pairs of oxygen and hydrogen items are replaced with chlorine atoms during the manufacturing process. This means the body does not recognize sucralose as digestible, so it is not metabolized, making it calorie-free. There are calories in the maltodextrin and Dextrose, so technically Splenda itself does have calories–about three per packet.
Chlorocarbons and Controversey
Chlorocarbons as a whole are a very large group, with some very nasty members. DDT is a chlorocarbon, as are Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). But, not all chlorocarbons are dangerous. Teflon is based on a chlorocarbon, and peas contain it naturally. Zoloft and vancomycin are among the over 100 chlorocarbons approved for use as pharmaceutical drugs.
Scientific studies have discovered some risks associated with Splenda, but only at very high dosages. One study on rats found that it caused the thynmus to shrink, but only if the rats ate the equivalent of 17,200 packets of Splenda every day for a month. At the FDA’s Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) level for Splenda, which is the rough equivalent of about 15 cans of diet soda a day, no risks were found.