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Weird Science: How Splenda Was Discovered

Weird Science: How Splenda Was Discovered
By Dr. Janet Starr Hull

It seems that each of the artificial sweeteners has been discovered by accident, and sucralose is no exception. It is yet another strange “fortuitous discovery” of yet another chemical sweetener.

In 1976, Tate & Lyle, a British sugar company, was searching for ways to blend sucrose (sugar) with laboratory chemicals. In collaboration with Professor Leslie Hough’s laboratory at Queen’s College in London, halogenated sugars were currently being tested. Responding to a request for “testers” for these experimental chlorinated sugars, foreign graduate student Shashikant Phadnis signed up for “taste tests.”  His participation in the research project led to the discovery that chlorinated sugars are sweet and have potencies hundreds to thousands of times greater than sugar. 1

Excited at their new discovery, the manufacturers of Splenda are spreading the word about their new sweetener, but they do admit real sugar (unprocessed sucrose) is better for the body than sweeteners from the laboratory:

“Sucralose is made from sugar, but is derived from sucrose (sugar) through a process that selectively substitutes three atoms of chlorine for three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sucrose molecule. No artificial sweetener made in the laboratory is going to be neither natural to the body nor safer than unprocessed sugar,” they state. 2

The Tate & Lyle study was originally investigating the sweetness of sugar spin-offs, specifically those substituted with halogens. Halogens are powerful elements that help dissolve one substance into another. The researchers at Queen’s College determined that five closely related halogens - fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, and astatine (see below) - change the sweetness of the sugar molecule, with chlorine and bromine being the most effective.

The Halogens:

Chlorine was chosen because as a lighter halogen, it more easily dissolves in other substances, and combines readily with the sucrose for sugar substitution. The chlorine has to be chemically altered, though, to be very tightly bound so that it doesn’t break down inside the human body. 

Food For Thought

If the chorine in sucralose breaks free before it is completely excreted from your body, doesn’t it make the contents of sucralose a carcinogen because chlorine causes cancer in humans and other animals?

Canada became the first country to approve the use of Splenda in 1991, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted American marketing approval in 1998. Johnson & Johnson purchased the rights to develop sucralose in the United States as a commercially available product. They created an individual company, McNeil Specialty Products (renamed McNeil Nutritionals), as a part of the Johnson & Johnson corporate umbrella for the exclusive purpose of marketing the new sucralose product “Splenda” in 2000.

How Do They Make Splenda?

Splenda (sucralose) is created in the lab, using a complex process involving dozens of chemicals you and I can barely pronounce (let alone consume).  Basically, the chemists force chlorine into an unnatural chemical bond with a sugar molecule, resulting in a sweeter product, but at a price: a huge amount of artificial chemicals must be added to keep sucralose from digesting in our bodies. These toxic substances also prevent (hopefully) the dangerous chlorine molecules from detaching from the sugar molecule inside the digestive system, which would be a carcinogenic hazard.

To illustrate the alarming “chemical soup” required to create sucralose, I have listed here the actual process for producing this sweetener. I highlighted the chemicals in bold type for emphasis.

According to the Splenda International Patent A23L001-236 and PEP Review #90-1-4 (July 1991), sucralose is synthesized by this five-step process: 3

   1. sucrose is tritylated with trityl chloride in the presence of dimethylformamide and 4-methylmorpholine and the tritylated sucrose is then acetylated with acetic anhydride,

   2. the resulting TRISPA (6,1',6'-tri-O-trityl-penta-O-acetylsucrose) is chlorinated with hydrogen chloride in the presence of toluene,

   3. the resulting 4-PAS (sucrose 2,3,4,3',4'-pentaacetate) is heated in the presence of methyl isobutyl ketone and acetic acid,

   4. the resulting 6-PAS (sucrose 2,3,6,3',4'-pentaacetate) is chlorinated with thionyl chloride in the presence of toluene and benzyltriethylammoniumchloride, and

   5. the resulting TOSPA (sucralose pentaacetate) is treated with methanol (wood alcohol, a poison) in the presence of sodium methoxide to produce sucralose.

And the Splenda marketers stress that sucralose is “made from sugarbut is derived from this sugar through a process that selectively substitutes three atoms of chlorine for three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sucrose molecule.”  While this is true, it is a deceptively simple description, implying that sucrose is a simple benign sugar substituted with chlorine, thereby, safe for consumption.  According to research on the hydrolysis of sugars, just the process of inserting chlorine into the sugar molecule (hydrolysis means breaking it into smaller molecules) ultimately allows these chemicals to penetrate the intestinal wall. 4

So sucralose becomes a “low-calorie” sugar with a complicated process that results in Splenda’s chemical formal: 1,6-dichloro-1, 6-dideoxy-BETA-D-fructofuranosyl-4-chloro-4-deoxy-alpha-D-galactopyranoside. 5

This is Splenda. And they say it is a perfectly benign sugar molecule.

More Hidden Chemicals In Splenda

Did you know if a product includes an ingredient that is a proven carcinogen but is less than two percent of its total chemical make-up, it does not have to be listed as an ingredient, nor does it have to be tested for product safety or labeled as a carcinogen?  Just as an example, a food product could have 2.5 percent rat poison as a minor ingredient, but does not have to name the rat poison on the ingredient list.  With the number of chemicals used in manufacturing food products today, the ingredient lists would be too long to fit on any of the labels, needless-to-say.

The FDA states in their Final Report on Splenda that sucralose is “produced at an approximate purity of ninety-eight percent.” The other two percent does not have to be reported to the FDA, nor listed as added ingredients.  So what’s in the other two percent?6

Although manufacturing guidelines specify limits on these hidden substances, there are no assurances these limits have been met since they do not have to be reported.  In addition, the FDA does not presently require an Environmental Impact Statement for sucralose, so it’s open season for the rules at present.

Now you can see why I do not recommend sucralose for pregnancy or for children, especially after reading this list.

Is Splenda Digested Or Not?

Because of their patented multi-step process, corporate marketers insist the body doesn’t recognize Splenda as a sugar, a carbohydrate, or “anything”, so it doesn’t metabolize it AT ALL.  I disagree.

The only way sucralose can be prevented from breaking down and passing through the intestinal wall is to be altered into a substance the body doesn’t recognize, and that requires using the myriad of chemicals listed above.

Ingesting these grossly mutated molecules can create tremendousstress in the body. Many people complain of stomach cramping, bloating or diarrhea from using sucralose.  More bladder infections, blood in the urine, kidney problems, and accompanying lower backache have appeared since both aspartame and sucralose came onto the market. The number of pharmaceutical sales for bladder control medication, recurring bladder infections, and kidney disease support this connection, as do the hundreds of case histories I receive daily from people whose symptoms vanish when they stop using sucralose, aspartame, and blends of chemical sweeteners.

NOTE: An individual’s reaction to sucralose and other artificial sweeteners depends upon how much is used and how often, past and current health status, and the degree of other toxins present inside the body.

Yet, Splenda representatives are aggressively pushing sucralose into the international market and defending its safety as completely risk-free to human health.

“Sucralose is harmless, poorly absorbed, and does not accumulate in the body. There is absolutely no need for concern about the safety of sucralose due to the chlorine molecules used in its manufacture,” states Dr. Leslie Goldsmith, Vice President, Safety and Science Affairs, McNeil Nutritionals.

Again, I disagree.  Laboratory chlorine is laboratory chlorine. Replacing natural sugar with manmade chlorine can be harmful, especially for pregnant women, developing fetuses, the sick, and the elderly.

If You Have A Healthy Digestive System, You Just Might Digest Splenda

How do you know that you would or wouldn’t digest the chlorine in Splenda?  How does McNeil know?  Every human being is unique.

We forget the whole purpose of eating: human beings require food to grow, reproduce, and maintain good health.Foods are supposed to digest to provide fuel for survival. The human digestive system is amazing, and it will do anything to assimilate what you give it to support life. And you’re trying to fool it when you feed it fake foods.

The breakdown of a diet cola is achieved through a combination of mechanical and enzymatic processes. To accomplish this breakdown, the digestive tract acts as a team, requiring considerable assistance from the digestive organs such as the salivary glands, the liver, and pancreas, which dump their secretions into the digestive tract system. Without the pancreatic enzymes, you would starve from lack of nutrients and become malnourished.

In many ways, the digestive system is like a well-run engine where a large number of complex tasks take place. Look how many major organs are dedicated to digestion alone:

It is unlikely sucralose can escape this arduous journey through your body without breaking down in some way. If your body is digesting properly, resistance is futile.

In fact, research shows that artificial sweeteners create a fatty liver. The liver enzymes are elevated because the body is working so hard to digest something it doesn’t understand. 7

Conflicting Reports About Splenda’s Absorption In The Body

With all this information on the dangers of aspartame - and now sucralose - whom do we believe anymore – the corporations, the government, researchers, or consumers?According to the FDA’s “Final Rule” report, eleven to twenty-seven percent of sucralose is absorbed in the human body, and the remainder is excreted unchanged in the fecal waste. According to the Japanese Food Sanitation Council, as much as forty percent of ingested sucralose is absorbed. According to McNeil Nutritionals, zero percent is absorbed. According to the creators of sucralose, Tate & Lyle, fifteen percent is absorbed. Who do we believe?

The FDA also states in their final report, “Because sucralose may hydrolyze in some food products…the resulting hydrolysis products may also be ingested by the consumer.” They also report that there is some concern about tumor growth in certain studies with mice, and many of the other tests submitted have “inconclusive” results.

Toxicologist Judith Bellin reviewed studies on rats starved under experimental conditions, and concluded that their growth rate was reduced by as much as a third without the thymus losing a significant amount of weight (less than seven percent). The changes were much more obvious in rats fed sucralose. While the animals’ growth rate was reduced by between seven and twenty percent, their thymus glands shrank by as much as forty percent. 8

The absorbed levels of sucralose were found in laboratory studies to concentrate in the liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract of laboratory animals.  Understanding how digestion works, now we know why.

Research animals fed sucralose exhibited the following symptoms:

What’s Good For the Rat Is Good For the Human

McNeil representatives state negative animal study results do not apply to human sucralose consumption, as decreased sweetness throughout several studies was found to only occur in the rat studies. The decreased taste pleasure led to decreased thymus weight only in the rats.

So why do studies on rats, then? Are they saying that only positive lab results apply to human product safety, and negative results don’t count? If all the studies on rats attempt to prove safety for humans, aren’t the studies proving significant danger as well?


1. SRI Consulting (SRIC). PEP Review 90-1-4 Sucralose - A High Intensity, Noncaloric Sweetener.

2. Ibid.

3. The Chemical Abstracts Service Registry number for sucralose: 56038-13-2.

4. Hydrolysis of sugars: the hydrolysis of sugar polymers by acid or enzymes converts non-reducing polysaccharides to reducing oligo- andmonosaccharides. Biochemistry 2344 Lecture 11: Carbohydrates, March 29-April 2, 1999.

5. The Chemical Abstracts Service Registry number for sucralose: 56038-13-2.

6. Ibid.

7. Keith JN. Report 2.1460. Gastroenterology Section, AMB S401F (MC 4080): 188-1477.

8. Bellin J. New Scientist. pg 13. Nov 23, 1991.

Posted on February 7, 2005 in Research | Link To This Entry | Comments (19)


Posted by: Brad on February 28, 2005 8:16 PM

While I have no idea whether Splenda is toxic or not, I do contend that your assumption that a product made by or containing toxic elements is toxic to humans. One of the salts that you consume everyday is listed on all packaged as sodium. Actually, this chemical is sodium chloride and is quite simply 1 sodium atom and 1 chlorine atom. When a salt such as sodium chloride is placed in water, the sodium and chlorine ions seperate. That is right, you have free atoms of chlorine floating around in your body right now. However, its ionized form of Cl- it is not harmful.


Posted by: s e aw on March 1, 2005 9:30 AM

I wonder how those people who so firmly state in public that aspartame or splenda are harmless to humans, sleep soundly at night - knowing that there IS evidence to the contrary, however tenuous - even as they mouth that they have no trouble sleeping at all.
These are the same people the public are obliged to trust for their objective, scientific judgement.


Posted by: butch on March 2, 2005 10:03 AM

Your article is an inspiration to more carefully choose which 'foods' to buy and consume. I'll spread the word.


Posted by: Patricia Brummel on March 4, 2005 9:14 AM

Very informative and very interesting. An article worth passing along.


Posted by: Dr. Janet Starr Hull on March 13, 2005 9:03 PM

Thank you for the support. I, like most of us, was hoping Splenda would be a solution to the toxic aspartame travesty responsible for deteriorating the health of young and old over the past twenty years. When I began my research into Splenda over 2 years ago, I was disappointed to learn that it is just another chemical "trick" to support the modern-day chemical food dependencies of the sugar-free lifestyle. Wouldn't it be nice to see marketers promote true healthy products? But, unfortunately it's not with Splenda.


Posted by: highschoollifter on April 14, 2005 11:55 PM

here's my opinion. Even if sucralose is a carcinogen, the amount one would need to digest is beyond our capability of consuming! I have read numerous reports documenting that ounces and ounces of splenda would have to be consumed daily for yrs in order to have somewhat of a risk. Sadly people abuse articficial sweetners these days, especially crazy atkin dieters. When used correctly, (such as a BRIEF diet period and not consumed everyday like too many people do), sucralose is a great diet aid, but not a miracle


Posted by: Natilie on April 18, 2005 11:50 PM

THANK YOU SO MUCH for this very helpful and extremely informative information! I am doing a research proposal for my psych' class and you have put into plain words what other studies and web sites have not, plus you stated obvious concerns that should be at the front of all of our minds when it comes to consuming artificial anything!!! Thanx again, hopefully I will get an A+!


Posted by: Dr. Janet Starr Hull on April 26, 2005 10:04 PM

I wish everyone was so disciplined, but most are not. It is easy to slip into the habit of drinking a 12 pack of diet cola while at work every day. And, then there's the sweetener blends, where you get two or three diet chemical sweeteners in one product. What a chemical cocktail! And, if you are sick, ill or weak with kidney disease or bladder problems, MS or Parkinson’s, for example, these chemicals only weaken the body more. Diabetics tend to use way too many chemical sweeteners trying to maintain what they think is a normal diet. And children – wow! They are learning that there are no limits to what they want - eat and drink all you desire with no penalty. (Hence, childhood obesity is off the charts!)

I think one of the biggest issues here is the lack of good communication about the downside of these products and exactly how and when to use them while maintaining a whole foods diet.


Posted by: Genessa Faye on May 17, 2005 10:45 AM

Just a few interesting facts. Benzene, found in Splenda, is a recognized carcinogen by NIOSH. People consume on average 10 lbs of sugar a year. Imagine subbing and using 10 lbs of Sucralose a year. Now, imagine your a mother baking cookies with Splenda for your toddler at home. From the time kids start eating things with Splenda in them till the day they die, imagine how much Sucralose they're consuming. Quite a bit.


Posted by: Mariana Penaranda on July 2, 2005 9:39 AM

Splenda has been available in Colombia since 1996 and my family had used it since then. No more. Thank you for the information, I hope Michael Moore reads it too.


Posted by: Cat on August 5, 2005 6:22 PM

I am by no means a chemist but I do posess a mild understanding of chemistry from college courses. This, of course, means I don't have any idea what I am talking about but something in the February 28, 2005 08:16 PM posting by Brad bugged me. The original post is below. Yes, salt is made of sodium and chlorine, however, it occurs in NATURE. NATURALLY. I do not agree that you are comparing apples to apples in saying that the chlorine in Splenda can be compared to the chlorine in salt. Splenda is not a product of nature but a lab-created chemical. If there is anyone who can elaborate on this and tell me if I am incorrect in my assumptions, please post here as I would be keenly interested. Thanks! C
**************Brad's Post********************
While I have no idea whether Splenda is toxic or not, I do contend that your assumption that a product made by or containing toxic elements is toxic to humans. One of the salts that you consume everyday is listed on all packaged as sodium. Actually, this chemical is sodium chloride and is quite simply 1 sodium atom and 1 chlorine atom. When a salt such as sodium chloride is placed in water, the sodium and chlorine ions seperate. That is right, you have free atoms of chlorine floating around in your body right now. However, its ionized form of Cl- it is not harmful.

Posted by: Brad at February 28, 2005 08:16 PM


Posted by: concernedmother on August 26, 2005 10:03 AM

Thank you,Thank you. I can put my mind at ease.I have been so concerned about the risk factors of saccharine,aspartame.and now splend.I stress all the time to family memebers not to use sweetners and that my children are not allowed to have it.Now I am going to show them all this website and hope it helps them to realize how harmful it it. I'll stick with the sugar.


Posted by: Melody Paul on September 13, 2005 8:55 AM

I always wondered why I had strange rumblings in my intestines when I drank my coffee. After this article, I faced the truth, I'm drinking poison in my coffee every day! I always thought Splenda was too good to be true. I had such a hard time weening myself from sugar, till Splenda. But now, I will ween myself off the Splenda!!!! I've got too. My health has gown down hill since i've started using it and I'm only 30.


Posted by: Mark on November 11, 2005 10:33 AM

Sorry, Cat, I'm with Brad on this one. I'm a bit concerned with Dr. Hull's assertion that the separation of the chloride ion from the sucralose molecule could cause problems. We have a *lot* of chloride ions from table salt in our bodies. Most of us probably have too much, but too little can cause terrible problems as well. What certainly *might* be possible is that the Sucralose molecule minus one or more of its chloride ions could be some kind of carcinogen. Once separated from its original molecule, a chloride ion has no idea whether it came from table salt, sucralose, or somewhere else. This means that the chloride ion could *not* be a problem (but again, the sucralose molecule minus its chloride *might* be a problem).
To provide full disclose, I am a) not a chemist (I'm an electrical engineer), b) not an employee of any pharmaceutical or nutritional company, and c) currently suffering from Aspartame withdrawal. That's how I found this web site. Looking at the controversy, I think I'll stick to water with the occasional drink sweetened with *sugar*!

Take care.


Posted by: brittany on March 1, 2006 12:06 PM

Thank you so much for this site. I recently took blood work and found out i have a "fatty liver." i never had a liver problems 5 months ago and 5 months ago is when i started using splenda. i drink coffee pretty much everyday and use 2 packets of splenda in my coffee as well as drink diet arizona green tea with splenda and carb control pair chunks in a can which contains splenda & i eat these things daily. i am only 17 years old and although it may not be due to this splenda, i am terribly too young to be having liver problems and now realize my new diet may be aiding me to these liver issues.


Posted by: kalli on March 29, 2006 7:40 PM

this is very informative. i'm on the south beach diet right now and i recently bought some low carb ice cream (made with splenda), some sugar free candy (made with sugar alcohol), and some diet soda (made with sucralose). after i ate the candy and drank the soda, my stomach is rumbling like crazy and my mouth has a strange taste. i think i'm going to cut back on the splenda for a while.


Posted by: Samuel on May 27, 2006 10:21 PM

Anyone looking for a good sweetner that doesn't already know about Stevia & stevioside products should look into it. I don't sell or distribute it so I have no monetary value in bringing it up. I haven't had any side effects that I notice from Splenda, but stevia is a natural herb and does just as well in the foods that I eat. I currently use both because I am leary of what Splenda might do, and the combo of the two works well.


Posted by: Laura on June 26, 2006 1:14 PM

From now on, I just stop using splenda. This is serious...I was a "splenda junkie". I'm preocupied, because I wasn't feeling good. I'm feeling tired, with back & headaches. Feeling very weird. Maybe is because of this. Thanks for the info.

Laura / Puerto Rico


Posted by: Mary Rushing on October 21, 2006 1:32 PM

To those who think chloride or floride ions are safe when made in the lab, have you read the
difference between MSG & gluatmine the body has?
Natural fluoride in nature is safe & in balance
if the rest of nature is in balance, but putting
industrial run-off into my food & mouth is a
completely different thing!


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