War of the Sugar Substitutes

Patient Expert

Reprinted with permission from Amy Tenderich of www.diabetesmine.com.

Splenda vs. Equal vs. Sweet & Low...

Which is the lesser of evils?

I've noticed that lately, at least in California, restaurants and cafes now fill their ramekins with ALL THREE PRODUCTS, so patrons can choose their poison. I often stare long and hard at those yellow, baby blue and pink packets, wondering "should I be choosing on taste (who can tell the difference?) or based on some important health concern?"

What's in them, anyway? I made a special stop at Starbucks yesterday (not nearly as eventful as Kerri's) to grab three fresh packets and check it out:

SPLENDA: sucralose

EQUAL: dextrose with maltodextrin, aspartame

SWEET & LOW: nutritive dextrose, calcium saccharin, cream of tartar, and calcium silicate (an anti-caking agent)

(Check out a brand new book on the "sweet and sour" scandals behind the Cohen family Sweet & Low Empire, by the way)

From what I read, it's all pretty crappy for your system. The leading brand, Splenda, is even under official FDA scrutiny now that a number of peolpe have complained of side effects ranging from skin rashes, to headaches, to severe gastrointestinal problems. Belch!

Splenda is actually just the brand name for sucralose, a sugar derivative, which is made through a patented multi-step process that converts natural sugar cane to a no-calorie, non-carbohydrate sweetener that your body doesn't recognize as sugar or carbohydrate -- so it doesn't get metabolized. Wha-la! It's calorie-free!

Almost all artificial sugar substitutes are made specifically to be malabsorbed, so is it any wonder if your stomach gets upset by chemicals it can't break down?

During my visit to Oregon last month, my friend's husband had a fit when he noticed I was guzzling all this chemical hooey. He introduced me to Stevia, a natural sweetener, and made me promise to switch. I'd love to, but my house is still stocked with Costco-sized stores of Equal and Splenda, not to mention those fructose packets I bought last year, which aren't bad. All natural! How 'bout you?