Sucralose is a free-flowing, white crystalline solid that is soluble in water and stable both in crystalline form and in most aqueous solutions. It has a sweetness intensity that is 320 to 1,000 times that of sucrose, depending on the food application.

Even though sucralose retains sugar's sweet flavor, the changes in chemical structure make sucralose unavailable to body enzymes that would break it down to provide calories, says Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, from the American Institute for Cancer Research. In extensive testing, sucralose does not affect blood sugar or insulin levels.

Sucralose offers two more advantages: First, it can be used in cooking and baking, unlike aspartame. Second, it does not have the bitter aftertaste associated with some other sweeteners, Collins says. After reviewing more than 110 animal and human safety studies conducted over 20 years, the US Food and Drug Administration approved sucralose in 1998 as a tabletop sweetener and for use in products such as baked goods, nonalcoholic beverages, chewing gum, frozen dairy desserts, fruit juices, and gelatins.

Earlier this year, FDA amended its regulation to allow sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener for all foods.

Because sucralose, sold under the brand name of Splenda currently, cannot be digested, it adds no calories to food. Because sucralose is so much sweeter than sugar, it is bulked up with maltodextrin, a starchy powder, so it will measure more like sugar. It has good shelf life and doesn't degrade when exposed to heat.

One cup of Splenda contains just 96 calories and 24g carbohydrates -- a big difference from the 770 calories and 192g carbohydrates in one cup of sugar. Each 1 teaspoon serving (one packet) of Splenda contains .9g carbohydrates and 4 calories.

US labeling laws allow any products under 5 calories per serving to be labeled "zero" or "no calorie."

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