Splenda? Or Splend-don’t?

If you’re a regular user of Splenda, Equal, or Sweet N’ Low, then it’s likely you’ve also been the recipient of some harsh accusations. Being a long time Splenda user myself, I’ve had the following statements said directly to me, all because I tore open one of those little yellow packets:

“That will kill you.”

“So you’re ok with the fact that stuff will give you cancer?”

“You know that’s worse for you than sugar right?”

“Stop that!!!! Don’t use that!!! Use this packet {of insert name of all-natural sugar extract here} I keep in my purse.”

Taken out of context, those statements sound more callous than ever to me. But people have said these kind of things to me for years. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes in 1992, Splenda wasn’t around, and my diet was much stricter than it is now (these were the days of “exchanges,” “sliding scales,” and Regular insulin. Sugar was out, completely – although bread and fruit were totally in. No wonder that system didn’t work. Digression).

I switched to diet sodas, sugar-free cookies (that I recall tasting like cardboard, with a hint of tree bark), and one treat I distinctly remember: Eskimo Pie Ice Cream sandwiches made with Equal. I can still remember the little logo on the outside of the box that signified those were my treats, not my sister’s. We weren’t particularly concerned at that time about what artificial sweeteners could do to you. My parents were just trying to find substitutes for all the things my 10-year-old self couldn’t have anymore.

When I started drinking coffee towards the end of high school, I’d sweeten the bitter cup with a packet of Equal. When Splenda hit the market, I switched to that (I preferred the taste)  and have never tried anything else. I use one packet in my morning coffee, and one in my afternoon cup. Two packets a day. That’s it. I cook with Splenda maybe five times a year. What I’m saying is, my overall volume amounts to about a teaspoon a day of the powdery stuff – not a lot.

But is it enough to make a difference? That I don’t know. Here’s the deal: I’m totally open to better understanding these sweeteners. I’d LOVE to read a scientific article using evidence-based rationalization about why these are bad for me. But I simply haven’t seen anything from a source I trust yet. I’m not saying the naysayers are wrong – in fact I think it’s a good rule of thumb to eat “real” food as often as possible. But I’m also a person with diabetes, and I don’t care to carb count sugar packets in my morning coffee if there’s a substitute that’s safe.

My stance is totally open for debate. So if you’ve got some facts I need to know, I’m all ears. But no matter what you believe, I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to tell someone they’re giving themselves cancer while they fix up their coffee. As the saying goes: “Say what you mean, just don’t say it mean.”


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I’m an Equal fan myself. Splenda falls under the “sugar alcohols” category, which means trying to figure out the whole net-carbs thing (not to mention the laxative-effect thing), but I know so many people who think it’s newer, so it must be better.

What absolutely shocks me is how pink, blue, and yellow packets have come to mean saccharine, aspartame, and sucralose by apparent default. I go into my local convenience store and they’ve got store-brand or generic-brand sweetners in those same packets next to the coffee. I blindly assume, simply by color, what’s really in those packets. But I don’t know.

As an aside, as a kid I learned the definion of the word “hazardous” after reading it on the warnings of saccharine-sweetened products and asking my mom what it meant.

Wow, I agree. I try not to say stuff like that to people because I know how annoying it is! I read back in February about what artificial sweeteners can do to your body and I haven’t used one since. I was so scared that I quit all my diet soda consumption. Even regular soda tastes bad to me now. I haven’t had a diet soda since then. I’d say I’m proud of that, but really, there’s no other option for me.

It’s enough of a trial dealing with this stupid disease, I don’t need to risk any others. If cutting one thing out of my diet will reduce and eliminate that risk, I’m all for it. It saves me money anyways. It doesn’t kill me to avoid the stuff. I’m NOT missing anything. I’m not deprived. I feel more like I’m “sticking it to” the big companies trying to sell me “healthy” drinks. Water is cheap (filtered as best as I can filter it and kept in a BPA-free bottle) and although coffee isn’t particularly cheap these days, my two cups a day are cheaper than soda anymore.

My husband gets serious digestive issues when he has any artificial sweetener of any kind. I guess my body got used to it through the years, but that’s scary too! Now I use an organic stevia that has 1 gram of carb per packet. Easy to count and I know I’m not getting any funky chemicals.

I would encourage you to do as much research as possible. Then make the best decision for YOU. I’ll keep an eye out for a scientific, trustworthy article for you. I read so many that I can’t even remember where to start.

Here’s a good writeup on the safety http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/are-artificial-sweeteners-safe/ They are generally a reliable site and site their sources.

But from what I read it is safe and there is no data that indicates otherwise.

I really dislike it when people say stuff like that.

I’m old enough to remember the brouhaha over saccharine (since I have a brother who’s been Type 1 since 1971). At the time, I asked a neighbor about it who happened to be a nurse. She said that for everyday use saccharine was safe. To get cancer from saccharine, she said, you would have to ingest an amount of saccharine equal to YOUR BODY WEIGHT for thirty years to see the disease the lab mice developed.

Darrell – interesting article, thanks for sending that. I like that their response is from evidence based medicine and evalutation of facts. It troubles me that so many of the arguments against Splenda etc are from folks who dilute their theories by making blanket statements (eg the woman in the article who said pretty much everything is caused by sacharine).

I also hear you Jessica though that if there’s a doubt there at all, it’s not a bad idea to just eliminate it – it certainly can’t do any harm. The best food advice I’ve ever heard is from Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore’s dilema: “Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much.” He makes a good point.

@ Darrell – And going back another decade, I was using cyclamate when it was banned for sale in the USA based on a study that found increased bladder tumor in mice fed the equivalent of you/me drinking 350 CANS of diet soda a day. Probably die of terminal farting first! It’s used everywhere in the world BUT the USA!! I was working in Europe last few years and brought back handfuls of tablets from Denmark and the UK where it is still one of the top sweeteners – no GI side effects and you can use to cook (see Sucryl and read Wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_cyclamate#History ).

I need my teaspoon of sweetener in my coffee, and sugar will raise my BS far faster than any available insulin.

I have heard about Stevia Natural Sweetner.
It is a plant product, NO artificial and amazing.
Lot better than splenda or other sweetner.

Check this

Intersting article. I can understand how it may be annoying to hear things like that, but honestly maybe those people are just trying to help you, maybe they are concerned about you, and not being mean. I’ve found that people take what they like to eat so personally, and don’t like to be told it may not be good for them. To me, that doesn’t make sense. If I warn people about something they eat, if anything, I think I should be thanked! But believe me, that doesn’t happen! I mean, I’d want to be told if something I ingest may be hurting me, so it just baffles me why people may get offended. I just don’t understand it, it’s not a personal affront, so it shouldn’t be taken that way. Knowing that it can be annoying to some, it can take courage to warn others about it, so it means they care about you. Think about that. Aside form helping my own diet, what’s the point of knowing about nutrition if I’m not allowed to share what I know out of concern for others? Maybe these people just don’t like seeing you, what would be in their mind, as hurting yourself. Why is that mean? I I’m all for freedom with what we choose to ingest, but I beleive we cannnot truly have freedom unless we understand what our choices are. I also think it’s important to give others the benefit of the doubt, After all, isn’t that what we all want? Just my two cents. All the best to you! 🙂

Thanks for the article. 😉

employed by Wisdom Natural Brands, the makers of SweetLeaf Stevia

Firstly, it’s rude that people would say things like that to you and frankly, none of their business, “concerned” or not. Secondly, I choose the philosophy that I’m not going to live my life in fear of what “might” happen if I do something wrong. Last I heard, none of us were getting out of here alive. Lol. Just about every food we eat is now scrutinized- and linked to causing a disease. I choose to enjoy life, be happy! I choose to strike a balance and not let an obsession to be healthy overtake or over shadow everything in life. If you want Splenda in your coffee, you have it!

I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is required to get set up? I’m assuming having a
blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet smart so I’m not 100% sure. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks

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