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Diabetes Developments - A blog on latest developments in diabetes by David Mendosa

Splenda or Stevia ?

February 21st, 2007 · 9 Comments

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Is it better to sweeten with Splenda, the McNeil Nutritionals brand of sucralose, or with one of the many brands of stevia? I keep changing my mind on this question and going back and forth between them. I suspect that I’m not the only one puzzling over this issue.

I’ve just switched back to stevia. It wasn’t because of any new information or sudden insight. It was partly because I have begun to accept that people and organizations I respect prefer stevia.

The natural foods stores, Whole Foods and Wild Oats, where I almost buy everything else that I eat, don’t sell Splenda. Andrew Weil, M.D., the leading exponent of the integrative medicine, which I believe in myself, prefers stevia to any of the artificial sweeteners.

“The only non-caloric sweetener I recommend is stevia, an herb in the chrysanthemum family native to Paraguay,” he writes. “Stevia is safe for diabetics and is widely used as a sweetener around the world, especially in Japan and Brazil.”

Stevia is indeed natural. But natural isn’t necessarily safe. Think of all the poisonous mushrooms, to say nothing of strychnine and curare.

It’s hard to determine the advantages and disadvantages of the natural stevia, which is essentially untested, against the artificial Splenda that has been tested. Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary, McNeil Nutritionals, advertises that Splenda is “Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar.”

In fact lawsuits are pending that alleges the company is sugar-coating Splenda to consumers. The Sugar Association, Merisant Worldwide, which makes rival artificial sweeteners Equal and NutraSweet, and a group of individuals have filed three class-action suits again McNeil Nutritionals. They claim that company misleads consumers into believing Splenda is a natural product.

Splenda also doesn’t compare with stevia in a respect that is important to people with diabetes. Splenda does have a glycemic index and some calories. That’s because the manufacturers of Splenda (as well as the people who make aspartame) bulk it up with small amounts of maltodextrin, which is high glycemic.

Bulking up was what tricked me for a long time into thinking that Splenda must be a lot less expensive than stevia. But you use much less stevia to get the same amount of sweetness.

Stevia hasn’t gone through the Food and Drug Administration’s testing procedure. But ever since 1994 stevia has been available as “a dietary supplement.” But this strange law, offered up by our Congress to appease the vitamin and supplement industry, forbids the sale of stevia as a sweetener – the only thing that we use it for. That’s why you won’t find it in the same aisle as sugar and honey at Whole Foods or Wild Oats, but rather in the areas where they sell vitamins, herbs, and such.

Because people in South American have used stevia for centuries and because many more in Japan, Korea, and China have used it for 20 years or so, many people argue that it must be safe. But it is not generally recognized as safe, or GRAS, the FDA’s category for food ingredients like sugar that have been used so long that they predate premarket testing.

You can get stevia in three forms, and I’ve tried them all. The most natural and at the same time the least satisfactory is the powdered green leaf. It has a bitter after-taste. You can buy stevia in liquid form, and some people might like to get it this way, but I don’t. My preferred way, which I think is also the most common way, is a white extract of stevia.

I’ve tried all the major brands of stevia. Some of them do have a bitter after-taste just like the raw leaf does. Right now I prefer the Now Foods “Stevia Extract” and the NuNaturals “NuStevia,” neither of which have a bitter after-taste.

Still, Splenda is clearly superior to stevia is one respect. You can cook with it. Stevia doesn’t brown, crystallize, retain moisture, or make foods gooey. So don’t expect me to throw out the Splenda that I have on hand now.

This is a mirror of one of my articles that was originally published on Health Central.

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Posted in: Diabetes Diet

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9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 rathan // Jul 17, 2008 at 12:58 am

    where does one get ’stevia’ or ’splenda’ in India ? Shall be grateful for any pointers.

  • 2 David Mendosa // Jul 17, 2008 at 5:55 am

    Dear Rathan,

    I don’t know. But maybe another reader who lives in India can answer your question.

    David

  • 3 Markus // Jul 28, 2008 at 7:42 am

    you can find stevia extract in the herb section of any health food store. beware sometimes they cut it down with another less expensive sweetener. Whole Foods has it in their bulk section and is probably the best i have used at the best price.

    splenda, aspartame has been reported to be very bad for human consumption. you can find plenty of research on this on the web.

  • 4 Linda Carpenter // Jul 5, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Do you still use Splenda for cooking? Or have you found something better to cook with? I have many recipes that call for quite a bit of sweetener, such as flax muffins. I need more than what packets of Stevia would work for.

  • 5 David Mendosa // Jul 6, 2009 at 6:38 am

    Dear Linda,

    Thanks for asking. I now use stevia exclusively for two reasons. It is natural, and it has no calories in the bulking agent (if you get the SweetLeaf brand).

    Best regards,

    David

  • 6 Pam // Feb 10, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    What a great website! Thank you for sharing so much information. The question I have is this. I am on a low-carb diet, and from what I have read here you are saying that liquid sucralose is safe and has no effect on blood sugar. It truly counts as no-carb? Just checking. Thanks again.

  • 7 David Mendosa // Feb 10, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Dear Pam,

    Thank you. Yes, liquid sucralose, if you can get it, has no effect on blood sugar. I have heard, however, that it’s only available to manufacturers to put in their products. All the Splenda that I have seen is bulked up with a little maltodextrin, which does have a few calories from carbs, but minimal. Stevia, on the other hand, particularly the SweetLeaf brand from Wisdom Brands is bulked with a fiber, inulin, and has no calories, no carbs. It has become my sweetener of choice, partly because it is natural and doesn’t use maltodextrin, which comes from corn, and essentially all the corn that we have in the U.S. in genetically modified, and I am a bit suspicious of it.

    Best regards,

    David

  • 8 Splenda causes hair to fall out // Jun 25, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    I used Splenda and my hair fell out. My head also itched something terrible. Look up Splenda and hair loss on Google and you will find many who have had the same problem.

    It is the only thing that I eat that makes my head itch horribly and then my hair started falling out. I now use either Stevia and or sugar and threw out all my Splenda.

    EB

  • 9 Kannan // Feb 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I started buying from http://www.procarvit.com . They are seeling really very good 100% natural stevia produstcs. No bitter taste..

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