You’re trying to cut fructose out of your diet, as you’ve heard it’s bad for your health. You’ve since switched to sucralose, a sugar alternative that’s supposed to slash the calories. Does that make sucralose a keto-friendly option?
Sucralose is low-carb, low-calorie, and technically keto. However, ingesting it too frequently could lead to health issues such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, and diabetes. Eat sucralose in moderation or try healthier sweeteners like Stevia or monk fruit.
If you’re not completely clear on what sucralose is, then this article is for you. First, we’ll delve into where sucralose comes from and what it looks like nutritionally.
Then we’ll examine whether sucralose is keto and which sweeteners you might want to consider instead.
What Is Sucralose?
Let’s take it from the top. What exactly is sucralose? It’s a substitute for fructose and other sugar sources like it. Unlike some types of sugar though, when you ingest sucralose, your body doesn’t break it down, which is how sucralose is zero-calorie.
The most popular sucralose sweetener is Splenda. However, not all Splenda products use sucralose. The Splenda Original Sweetener contains sucralose, but Splenda Allulose Sweeteners, Splenda Monk Fruit Sweeteners, and Splenda Stevia Sweeteners do not.
The marketing for sucralose suggests that it won’t increase your insulin so even diabetics can use it. It’s also not supposed to cause cavities, which is great if you have a sweet tooth but care about your dental health.
As it turns out, all that isn’t completely true. Powered sucralose has maltodextrin and dextrose that can increase your insulin. Technically, it’s not the sucralose that caused the insulin spike, but that’s really splitting hairs.
Even still, the Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the Health Protection Branch of Health and Welfare Canada, the Scientific Committee on Food by the European Union, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee Report on Food Additives, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration all say that sucralose is safe for consumption.
Before you switch to sucralose as your sweetener of choice, what does its nutritional profile look like?
This sugar substitute is nutritionally void, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.
For example, as we touched on in the last section, sucralose contains zero calories, which is good for dieters and non-dieters alike. It’s also carb-free, which is another win. Yet sucralose lacks protein, good fats (and even the not-so-good ones), dietary fiber, and any nutrients, minerals, and vitamins.
Is Sucralose Keto-Friendly?
We just established that sucralose is carb-free. That makes it an open and shut case then that sucralose is keto-friendly, right?
Well, yes and no.
After all, it depends on how you define keto. If you’re just about cutting carbs on the keto diet, then sure, sucralose meets the bill as being keto-friendly.
Yet most keto dieters are not only looking for low-carb foods but those with moderate quantities of protein and high amounts of fat. That’s the crux of the keto diet, after all, not merely eating few carbs, but getting fat and protein as well.
We already confirmed that sucralose contains no fat nor any protein. For those on the keto diet, it only offers one benefit: being low in carbs.
Just because a food barely has any carbs doesn’t mean you should eat it on the keto diet.
Imagine if a hamburger had no carbs and the meat also lacked protein and fat. If you ate nothing but hamburgers to stay on keto, that’s not very healthy, is it?
Maybe if you’re following the dirty keto diet, you could do that, but a clean keto diet encompasses foods such as cottage cheese, eggs, poultry, cheese, and seafood.
It's all about a balanced diet to minimize carbs. That’s not the case if you’re eating sucralose.
On top of all that, we talked earlier about how sucralose in some forms can increase your blood sugar or glucose. Since glucose becomes glycogen that your liver stores to burn as energy, you want as little glucose in your diet as possible when on keto.
That’s the only way to get your body to start burning fat, which is how you enter ketosis. Whether you’re trying to get into ketosis or stay there, ingesting too much sucralose could knock you right out of your ketogenic state.
By testing your blood glucose before and after ingesting sucralose, you’ll have a clearer idea of how the sweetener affects your glucose levels.
Is Sucralose Healthy?
Even if you did prescribe to a dirty keto diet and you could ingest sucralose regularly while still staying in ketosis, sucralose is not the healthiest thing for you.
You might be asking, how is that the case? After all, sucralose is zero-carb and zero-calorie, not to mention that health organizations around the world say it’s safe to consume.
It’s safe in moderation, maybe, if even that. Here are some potential health risks tied to the consumption of sucralose that you should be aware of.
Could Cause Weight Gain
The jury is still out on whether Splenda and other sucralose products cause you to pack on the pounds or stay the same weight. One interesting study that suggests it could be the former comes from a 2012 publication of The New England Journal of Medicine.
In the study, 477 children ingested sugar once per day over 18 months. One group consumed 104 calories of sugar via a beverage sweetened with table sugar while the other group consumed a beverage with a no-calorie sweetener.
The latter beverage included sucralose, 34 grams of the stuff, as well as another sweetener called acesulfame-K.
The researchers weighed the children after 18 months and found that both groups had gained weight. The kids who had consumed the table sugar gained a smidge more.
There are plenty of outliers in this study, admittedly. One, was the diets of the children otherwise identical? If not, that could have played a role in their weight gain. Plus, the sweetened, no-cal beverages didn’t only include sucralose, but acesulfame-K, which has been known to cause weight gain.
That’s not to say that sucralose can’t make you gain weight. It could if it interrupted ketosis, the fat-burning measure that helps you drop extra pounds.
Could Possibly Be Carcinogenic
Although sucralose often goes into baking recipes where it’s heated to high degrees, if its temperatures exceed 246.2 degrees Fahrenheit, the sugar substitute might start breaking down. While this happens, sucralose could potentially produce chloropropanols, which could be carcinogenic.
Might Increase Disease Risk
Your risk of other diseases might go up if you’re a regular sucralose consumer. One such condition is inflammatory bowel syndrome or IBS, a large intestine disorder that can cause constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and stomach pain. Since it’s chronic, once you have IBS, you must create a symptoms management plan to live with it.
Crohn’s disease is another condition that could be tied to consuming sucralose. Crohn’s disease or ileitis is incurable and causes symptoms like fatigue, anemia, diarrhea, and stomach pain. The symptom severity depends on the person, with some people experiencing very serious symptoms and others barely any.
This 2018 report from the journal Inflammatory Bowel Disease writes that, in mice, Splenda and other artificial sweeteners with sucralose caused their risk of developing Crohn’s to double. The study also mentions that for those who already have IBS and/or Crohn’s, ingesting sucralose can irritate the intestines and exacerbate symptoms.
We do have to mention the study was done on mice, not people, and this could change how sucralose interacts with the intestines of those with IBS or Crohn’s.
We have to talk about diabetes as well, a disease that either causes the overproduction or underproduction of insulin. We’ve mentioned already that sucralose, despite that it’s calorie-free, can in powder form lead to blood sugar increases.
This can, as you’d imagine, be dangerous for a diabetes sufferer, especially if they have type 2 diabetes.
Which Keto-Friendly Sweeteners Should You Try Instead?
If the last section has you rethinking whether you should ingest sucralose ever again, the good news is that it’s far from the only type of artificial sweetener out there. Here are several others that are keto-friendly and might be better for your health.
The Stevia rebaudiana plant’s leaves are harvested for their sweetening effects. The product that comes from the leaves is appropriately known as Stevia. It too is practically carb-free and has few calories if any.
Unlike sucralose, Stevia might lower your blood sugar instead of raising it. That makes this artificial sweetener safe for diabetics.
The yacon plant from South America produces yacon syrup, which is nectar that contains the soluble fiber fructooligosaccharides or FOS. If you recall, sucralose has no fiber, as it’s nutritionally empty.
Yacon syrup does contain some calories. In a 15-milliliter serving, you’ll ingest 20 calories. It has 11 grams of carbs too, so you’ll have to use yacon syrup sparingly on your keto diet.
The Siraitia grosvenorii, which is called the swingle fruit or monk fruit, is another plant-based artificial sweetener to try. Monk fruit contains antioxidants called mogrosides which make it taste far, far sweeter than table sugar, up to 250 times more.
All that and no calories or carbs!
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that most people know by the brand name Splenda. Although sucralose has no calories or carbs, it certainly is not the healthiest choice for your keto diet. It’s nutritionally empty and doesn’t add any good fats or protein to your diet. The sugar could interrupt ketosis and increase your blood sugar.
Besides that, sucralose might increase your risk of diseases such as IBS, diabetes, and Crohn’s. If warmed up to very high temperatures, the sweetener could even be carcinogenic.
Eating some sucralose here and there on the keto diet is not the end of the world, but we’d encourage you to refrain from making sucralose your sweetener of choice!