Most of us mainly use various sugar substitutes just to help cut down on our calorie intake. The belief is that these sugar alternatives have lower calories as compared to table sugar. Maintaining a calorie deficit is crucial, especially if you want to lose pounds. Although there are several sugar substitutes on the market, most people opt for either stevia or sucralose. Despite the popularity of the two, you must note that each of these sweeteners has its own pros and cons. That said, how do you choose which one to settle for, between the two? Here is a comparison of stevia vs. sucralose.
Below we would like to discuss the differences between stevia and sucralose. This will explore the differences in their origin, uses, nutritional content, health benefits, and side effects. Stick around to learn which of the two is the healthier and better sugar alternative.
Stevia Vs. Sucralose: What Is The Difference Between The Two?
There are significant differences between these two sweeteners. Although they both offer a sweet taste when used as a sugar alternative, they are not the same. Take a look at some of the most common differences between stevia and sucralose.
Stevia is obtained from the leaves of the bushy stevia plant. The bushy shrub can be grown nowadays in northeast Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and parts of Europe and Asia (7). Sucralose, on the other hand, is a product of sugar (8). It is obtained when specific sugar molecules are replaced with those of chlorine (5).
Sucralose Vs. Stevia Leaf Extract FDA Approval
Sucralose, also known as Splenda, was first approved for use in 1998 (3). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status to rebaudioside A (stevia) in December 2008 (7).
Rebaudioside A is one of the chemicals in stevia that has been approved for use as a food additive sweetener (7). Although other countries use extracts from stevia plants as sweeteners, the U.S. has not approved the use of these extracts as sweeteners (7). Instead, it only advocates using these extracts as a dietary supplement or in skincare products (7).
Stevia is 200 times sweeter than sucrose yet contains fewer calories per serving. Medical News Today acknowledges that the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of stevia is 4 milligrams per kilogram (13).
The ADI of Splenda is slightly higher than that of stevia. An individual is advised to consume no more than an average of 23 servings in a day, where one serving is equivalent to one tablespoon sweetening packet (5).
Both these sugar alternatives have been found to have numerous uses. Let us start by examining the uses of stevia. Experts acknowledge that stevia can be used in the following ways (13):
- As a sugar alternative. Stevia is believed to be 200 or 300 times sweeter than table sugar. However, its sweet flavor does not mean it is high in calories. According to Medical News Today, stevia is classified in the zero-calorie category due to its low calories per serving (13).
- As a dietary supplement. Extracts from the stevia leaf have been approved for use as nutritional supplements in America.
- As an ingredient in various foods and beverages. Stevia can be used as an additive in desserts, sauces, soft drinks, pickled foods, yogurts, candy, chewing gum, and seafood (13).
Splenda is also widely used and in various ways. According to experts, sucralose, whose brand name is Splenda, can be used in the following ways:
- As an artificial sweetener. Unlike other sweeteners, Splenda tastes pretty sweet when used in either tea or coffee (5). Other sweeteners tend to lose their sweet flavor once they are heated. However, this is not the case for sucralose, which is why it is one of the recommended sugar alternatives to use in coffee.
- As an ingredient in various recipes. Splenda tends to be stable, even in temperatures as high as 450 degrees Fahrenheit (5). Its high heat tolerance makes it an excellent sugar alternative to use in many recipes. It can be used to bake goods, prepare frozen desserts and beverages (5).
Stevia has a wide range of health benefits when used as a sugar alternative. Some of these benefits include:
Stevia does not contain any calories or carbohydrates. Due to this, this sweetener tends to cause no effect on insulin or blood glucose, which helps with diabetes management (13).
Reduced Pancreatic Cancer
Stevia contains antioxidant compounds such as kaempferol that could potentially reduce pancreatic cancer risks (13).
Better Children’s Health
Giving children foods and beverages containing stevia helps reduce their calorie intake, especially from unwanted sweeteners (13).
The potential health benefits of consuming sucralose include:
Splenda contains fewer calories than table sugar. It is an excellent sugar substitute, especially in beverages like tea and coffee.
Experts also acknowledge that Splenda consumption can help improve digestion and immune function (12).
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Stevia Vs. Sucralose: Are They Safe? Examining The Potential Risks
As mentioned earlier, each of these sugar alternatives has its advantages and disadvantages. Several studies have examined the potential risks of using stevia. According to these studies, the most common side effects or potential dangers of using stevia include (2).
Some stevia products may contain added sugar alcohol. These additions tend to cause unpleasant symptoms in people who are sensitive to such chemicals. It may lead to hypersensitivity to sugar alcohol, although in rare cases. In most of these instances, consuming such products will cause nausea, vomiting, bloating, cramping, and indigestion (2).
Some people are allergic to stevia and all of its products. As more and more people become aware of these sugar substitutes, they start using them without seeking medical advice. You must consult beforehand to validate that you do not have a stevia allergy. Although experts acknowledge that few people suffer from these allergies, it would help if you consulted to avoid being among the few with these allergies (2).
- Endocrine Disruption
Stevia can also be used as a steroid in the form of steviol glycosides. When used this way, it can interfere with the hormones controlled by your endocrine system (2).
Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, refers to when your blood sugar levels drop below 70 mg/dL (6). Heavy or long-term consumption of stevia has been linked to low glycemia. Nonetheless, recent studies prove this is only possible in people with abnormally low blood sugar levels to start with (2).
Low Blood Pressure
Experts also consider stevia a vasodilator. It means that this sweetener causes the blood vessels to widen, which lowers the blood pressure (2). Excessive or long-term use of stevia may lead to chronic low blood pressure, which is dangerous to your health. It is characterized by dizziness or lightheadedness and may result in syncope (4).
Initially, researchers believed that long-term consumption of stevia could damage the kidney. However, they soon discovered that the effect was a diuretic. Experts now classify stevia as a diuretic. Diuretics are also known as water pills and are common treatments for high blood pressure (1). They help your kidneys release more sodium (salt) into the urine and eventually get rid of salt and water (1).
Experts realized stevia could help increase the speed at which the body expels water and electrolytes through the urine (2). It means that the sweetener does not risk damaging your kidney. Not only that, but according to more recent studies as reported in Medical News Today, stevia consumption can benefit your kidneys by reducing cyst growth in your kidney cells (2).
Like with stevia, Splenda, too, has its cons. The most common side effects or risks of Splenda or sucralose consumption are as follows:
According to Medical News Today, researchers are currently investigating toxicity caused by Splenda consumption in mice (5). So far, the study has revealed that mice that consumed sucralose were linked to altered microbe levels (5). From this, researchers gather that cooking with sucralose may result in toxic compounds known as chloropropanols (5).
Insulin And Glucose Irregularities
Increased Cancer Risk
According to Medical News Today, recent studies establish a link between Splenda consumption and increased risk of certain cancers (5). The site summarizes a study on mice fed with sucralose. The study findings indicated an increase in malignant cancers in mice with a higher sucralose intake (5).
Researchers further acknowledge that the mice have a higher incidence of leukemia following the high sucralose intake (5). In light of this, the study calls upon more urgent research and on human subjects. It must be set to help establish the link between Splenda consumption and the development of malignant cancers (5).
A 2016 study revealed that long-term carcinogenicity studies in animals provided no evidence or carcinogenic properties for sucralose (10). In healthy adults, the study discovered that sucralose was well-tolerated, and there was no toxicity evidence or any indication of a potential of carcinogenic effects (10).
The study found that sucralose did not demonstrate any carcinogenic activity even when the limit was above the recommended daily ingestion levels (10). These findings differ from those of Medical News Today, which is why more studies are needed to help determine if sucralose can cause cancer.
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Stevia Vs. Sucralose Vs. Sugar: Which Is Healthier?
One question that is being repeatedly asked is the question of which is healthier when comparing sugar, sucralose, and stevia. A wide range of articles will recommend stevia consumption over sugar, while others will prefer sucralose instead of sugar. Nonetheless, no specific article has yet acknowledged the healthier option of the three.
There is a good reason why most articles do not mention the healthiest sweetener when comparing the three. This is because sucralose, stevia, and sugar have both advantages and disadvantages. Although sometimes the pros may outweigh the cons, these cons could be fatal or increase your health risks.
In reviewing these side effects or health risks, you will likely determine that no sweetener is safe or healthy. Well, one may help you attain a specific goal such as weight loss, but not for the long haul. This is the case with stevia. Although it has been deemed effective for weight control, long-term consumption has been linked to hypoglycemia, endocrine disruption, and gastrointestinal problems among certain populations (2).
The same is the case with sucralose. It has numerous health benefits but fatal accompanying side effects, including an increased cancer risk and disruption of insulin and glucose levels. The same case applies to sugar. Sugar consumption has been linked to increased risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s diseases (11).
In light of this, it is safe to say that none are purely healthy or better than another. It all comes down to your preferences and goals. It would help if you talked to your doctor and nutritionist to choose a safer and healthier sugar alternative based on your current needs.
The Bottom Line
The debate between stevia vs. sucralose is not going to end any time soon. This is especially the case given that the two sugar alternatives have become pretty popular. Both of these sweeteners have their pros and cons.
Experts still disagree on which of the two is healthier or better. This is because there is a lack of evidence-based studies to assess their efficacy and in different populations. Until a more conclusive body of evidence is found, preference becomes the factor for identifying what people opt for between sucralose and stevia.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Diuretics (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- Does stevia have any side effects? (2017, medicalnewstoday.com)
- How Sweet It Is: All About Sugar Substitutes (2014, fda.gov)
- Hypotension (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Is Splenda safe? (2017, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia) (2021, cdc.gov)
- Stevia (2020, webmd.com)
- Stevia and Sugar Substitutes (2021, webmd.com)
- Stevia, Nature’s Zero-Calorie Sustainable Sweetener (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sucralose Non-Carcinogenicity: A Review of the Scientific and Regulatory Rationale (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sugar (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sweeteners: Classification, Sensory and Health Effects (2016, sciencedirect.com)
- What is stevia? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)