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Is Sucralose in Soda Bad?

By Clay McNight

Diet soda is the most commonly consumed source of artificial sweeteners, and sucralose is one of the most-used sweeteners in diet drinks, according to a 2010 article published in "Neuroscience." Although there have been concerns regarding the safety of sucralose, there has been no definitive research suggesting any potential risk for the sweetener. One important advantage of soda made with sucralose, when compared to regular soda, is its potential to prevent cavities.

Sucralose Background

Sucralose is an artificial sweetener created by five-step process that yields a 98 percent pure, water-soluble, crystalline substance. Sucralose can be anywhere between 320 and 1,000 times sweeter than table sugar, depending on its intended use. According to the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reviewed more than 100 studies on sucralose, assessing its cancer risk. The agency found no risk for cancer or any other health threats. Some organizations however, still argue that sucralose may not be completely safe.

Safety Concerns

Up until June 2013, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) had issued sucralose a rating of "safe." The organization, however, decided to downgrade this rating to "caution" after an independent Italian study that found a link between sucralose and leukemia in mice. Sucralose does, however, still have a safer CSPI rating than the three other most commonly used artificial sweeteners -- saccharin, aspartame and acesulfame potassium -- which are rated as "avoid." Despite the downgraded safety rating, the CSPI notes that those who drink soda made with artificial sweeteners are still better off than those drinking regular soda.

Weight Gain

The most common reason people choose diet soda made with artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, over regular soda, which is made with real sugar, is to lose weight or prevent weight gain. But a 2012 study published in the "Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine" found that drinking soda made with artificial sweeteners may actually promote weight gain. The study notes that artificial sweeteners do not activate food reward pathways in the brain the same way natural sweeteners do. This can lead to overeating and cravings for real sugar, which can in turn lead to sugar dependence and weight gain.

Sweetener's Advantages

One of the advantages of drinking soda made with sucralose comes in the form of dental health. A 2002 study published in the "Journal of Clinical Dentistry" found that replacing real sugar with sucralose may be helpful in avoiding tooth decay and cavities. The study also notes that the general research on sucralose toxicity demonstrates that the artificial sweetener is not carcinogenic to humans.

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