Sucralose and other facts on sweeteners

Eric McNeley
Sucralose is a human synthesized molecule that is not naturally occurring. It is derived from from the common sucrose (table sugar). It is synthesized from sucrose by selectively replacing 3 hydroxyl groups with chlorine atoms(1,2) as shown in figures 1 and 2. Sucralose is very sweet and is used as an artificial sweetener. It is about 600 times as sweet as sucrose(2), as such it is usually used in small amounts with the bulking agent maltodextrin (2,3.) It is approved by the FDA as a food additive, however it is not GRAS (generally regarded as safe). The molecule has not been found to be active in the human body, when ingested and most of it is just passed as waste(4.) The molecule is also very stable physically, its melting point is very high and it does not degrade under a wide range of conditions(2),. Sucralose's discoverer, Tate and Lyle, have also recently hit a speed bump for their molecule, other people have started making it and taking part of their market share(5.)

Figure 1. Sucrose and its hyxroxyl that are replaced to form Sucralose

Figure 1: Sucrose molecule with hydroxyl groups to be replaced highlighted Figure 2: Sucralose, hydroxyl groups have been replaced by chlorine atoms

Sucralose is biologically inert and does not break down in the human body very well. Most of the chemical is excreted in feces, a smaller amount is excreted in urine and the rest is either broken down or builds up in the body (traces, an insignificant amount throughout a human life span)(4.) Many studies have been done on the toxicity of sucralose, including a study by yours truly, but most of the research that has lead to negative claims or results have been found to be lacking in rigor or have gone far and above dosage recommendations from the manufacturer and common sense(4.)

Sucralose is also very stable under acidic conditions along with high temperatures, much more than that of the common sucrose that it is synthesized from. This a reason that in the past couple of years the amount of sucralose containing products has exploded in number and is now the biggest sector of the low/no sugar product market (6.) This is a huge boom to diabetics who were once very limited in what they could eat in terms of added daily sugar. Artificial sweeteners that have been around longer than sucralose such as aspartame and saccharine have large disadvantages in comparison. Aspartame degrades fairly quickly in processed food and soft drinks and is not heat stable in the slightest (breaks down to its base amino acids) (7.) Saccharine has been around for ages and has the words CANCER CAUSING written all over it, however these claims have turned out to be mostly false and have died down in popular culture. The other disadvantages of saccharine are its after taste, its terrible and in most cases has to be covered up with other sweeteners, which kind of defeats the purpose of an artificial sweetener (8). Other than that it is fairly heat and shelf stable for some period of time, but not even close to that of sucralose. Sucralose does not even melt when heated under baking and processing temperatures, it does however dissolve well in things that sugar also does, thanks to its polar nature and that it retains some of its hydroxyl groups that allow for hydrogen bonding (2.)

Fairly recently Chinese manufactures have started to produce mass quantities of generic sucralose and have been exporting it around the world. This has caused a huge head ache for Tate and Lyle, the creators of sucralose. Tate and Lyle have sued to have the Chinese manufactures to cease and desist manufacture of the chemical. The legal challenge however did not make much traction and Tate and Lyle have ended up losing in court. This is bad news for them, seeing as how huge sucralose's share of the artificial sweetener market is, and after the ruling their stock price dropped 17% (5.)

Sucralose has become a key molecule in our society in that it helps diabetic control how much sugar they ingest from packaged foods. It has been used as a way to reduce calorie intake by dieters. Its production and sale are a large portion of the artificial sweetener industry as it is one of the first to taste close to sugar and able to be used in baked goods. Until the United States ends its sugar addiction we will probably see many more artificial sweeteners like sucralose enter the market.


1: USPTO, Production of sucralose without intermediate isolation of crystalline sucralose-6-ester,
retrieved from on 5/29/11
2: Splenda product website.
retrieved from on 5/29/11
3: An overview of the safety of sucralose, (2009)
Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, Volume 55, Issue 1, October 2009, Pages 1-5
4: Sucralose metabolism and pharmacokinetics in man (2000)
Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 38, Supplement 2, July 2000, Pages 31-41
A. Roberts, A. G. Renwick, J. Sims, D. J. Snodin
5:Patent case news article, (retrieved 5/29/11)
6: Repeated dose study of sucralose tolerance in human subjects (2000)
Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 38, Supplement 2, July 2000, Pages 123-129
I. McLean Baird, N. W. Shephard, R. J. Merritt, G. Hildick-Smith
V. Lee Grotz, Ian C. Munro
7: Health Effects of the Artificial Sweetener Aspartame. Jeanne Wahlen retrieved from on 5/29/11)
8: Sodium Saccharin, retrieved from on 5/29/11