facebook pixelWhy use a “chemical” sweetener like sucralose? Why not stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol?
ShareFacebook logo, click to share

Why use a “chemical” sweetener like sucralose? Why not stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol?

First things first: there is some confusion between “Splenda” (that you buy at the grocery store) and pure sucralose. Splenda uses bulking agents so that you can “measure it like sugar” – typically this will be 99.8% maltodextrin which is simply a carbohydrate and no good for a Ketogenic or low carb diet. The maltodextrin in store-bought Splenda will absolutely spike your blood sugar. Pure sucralose, on the other hand, will not. Even if it did have an effect on blood sugar, there is simply too little of it to have any effect. In Keto Chow, we use 0.08g per serving. To put that in perspective: that is 1/64 the weight of a US nickel. Even 0.08g of actual sugarwill only raise your blood sugar by 0.32mg/dL – essentially no effect.

You may also find people snidely referencing sucralose as “chlorinated sugar” – assuming that any form of chlorine is bad for humans. This would be ignoring Sodium Chloride (salt) and other essential chemical compounds that contain chlorine.

OK, back to the question of why we use sucralose for many of the sweet flavors of Keto Chow. The short answer is: because stevia doesn’t taste very good to the overwhelming majority of our taste testers. Ultimately, stevia, monk fruit, erythritol, or any other “natural sweeteners” are not magical and cause the same reactions in humans as anything else that’s sweet so why not use the best tasting option? We actually paid a 3rd party to do a blind taste test and they confirmed that Keto Chow with sucralose tastes “more natural” than products using Stevia, Erythritol, or Monk Fruit.

  • Erythritol and Allulose would seem a good choice but they DOUBLE the weight and volume of Keto Chow, instead of 21 meals you’d get 10 for the same price and shipping. That sucks.
  • Keto Chow CORE is available with either NO sweetener (add your own!) or with Stevia
  • We do have the “Natural Strawberry” that does use monk fruit instead of sucralose. It costs more to produce and doesn’t taste as good (in my opinion).
  • We have the “Base Powder” version which you combine with your choice of flavored/sweetened protein powder – lets you use whatever you’d like. Want to use egg white protein with Stevia? Go for it! You’ll still get all of the vitamins and minerals you’d normally get with Keto Chow.
  • We have 4 savory soup flavors (you mix them hot!) that do not use any sweetener, because that would be gross.

Allow me to quote Julie from the Keto Villiage Facebook group – she illustrates why we use sucralose really well:

Holy what the hell. Go buy Keto Chow. It is NO joke. I am not a packaged foods kinda gal but needed something to get me back on the Keto track. I was thinking, honestly, “ok, I can choke this down for a couple weeks.” Um. NOT EVEN CLOSE. This shiz is delicious!!! And easy to make! Holy wow!
I bought both the peanut butter chocolate and the raspberry cheesecake. I blended 1/2 c heavy cream and 1/2 cup coconut milk with ice with a scoop of chow. Thick like a milkshake. No weird malt “slim fast” taste.

(Chris here) I personally use Keto Chow for at least 2 meals a day, often 3. Instead of something that I have to suffer through, I want something so delectable that I’m sad when I run out. It should taste so good that I swish it around in my mouth, enjoying the flavor; not plugging my nose and chugging it as fast as possible. And I won’t sell something that’s gross or barely tolerable. It’s gotta be delightful and that’s what you get with sucralose: the best flavor possible. A meal replacement that doesn’t taste AMAZING isn’t helpful in its intended use.

What about the rat studies showing changes in gut bacteria when exposed to sucralose? Humans are not rats. Those rats weren’t consuming acacia gum. Those rats weren’t on a ketogenic diet. Even more important, is the DOSE that the rats received. The dosage is usually expressed in mg/Kg or how many milligrams of sucralose were given per Kilogram of body weight. In the US, it was estimated (top of page 3) that most people consume 98mg of sucralose per day resulting in a dose of 1.6mg/Kg. In a recent study to determine the effects of sucralose, the rats were given an average of 80.4 mg/kg. Let’s see how that compares to what *you* would get by consuming Keto Chow: Let’s assume a 180lb person, they would need to consume 82 meals of Keto Chow *A DAY* in order to get the level of exposure in that rat study. If you measure in KG the math gets really easy, a 75kg person would need 75 meals.

The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) level for sucralose was set at 5 mg/kg body weight per day (mg/kg/d) (page 10) in the US and 15 mg/kg/d in the EU. So you’d only be close to that using Keto Chow if you do it 3x a day and weigh 100lbs/45kg.

In a widely refuted study from 2016, researchers gave mice 62mg/kg of sucralose and claimed a connection to leukemia – the science on that paper was so poorly done, an entire paper was published taking it apart. If you ever see someone claim sucralose is implicated in cancer or leukemia, they are only reading the original sensational headlines and ignoring the later contrary published proof. A 180lb person would need 62 meals of Keto Chow a day to get the 62mg/kg dose from the study.

In a study published in May 2021, researchers exposed different bacteria to 3 artificial sweeteners (saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame) in Petri dishes (“in vitro”) and then measured their growth, how they formed colonies, and how effectively they can attack mammal intestinal cells. Of the 3 sweeteners tested, Keto Chow only uses pure sucralose. Saccharin modified bacterial growth and all 3 made it easier for the bacteria to form biofilms and to attack intestinal cells. Again, this was under laboratory conditions, not in living organisms – it also didn’t have the added benefits of acacia gum which are likely to erase all of the potential issues found.

One of the very interesting aspects of the study was the researchers also tested what would happen if a compound (zinc sulfate) that blocks sweet tastes was added. Adding this compound changed how the bacteria reacted, based on my reading of the study, that would indicate that it is sweetness causing many of the changes. If this is indeed the cause, that would likely indicate that ALL sweet substances would similarly affect the bacteria, including: stevia, monk fruit, sugar alcohols (like erythritol, allulose, xylitol, etc…), and regular plain sugar.

Unfortunately, the researchers stopped short of testing the logical next step which would be using “natural” sweeteners (including stevia, monk fruit, and actual sugar) as a control to contrast against, they only tested the 3 artificial sweeteners against no sweetener. Because there isn’t a legitimate control in the experiment, it’s currently not possible to derive any conclusions about whether artificial sweeteners cause substantially different results in humans compared to other sweet compounds. This is one of the reasons why it’s important that you not rely on the “news” version that’s been enhanced with incendiary headlines but actually read the full text of the published papers.

Similarly, there was a study in 2013 where researchers gave obese, insulin-sensitive individuals, who did not typically use sucralose, stevia, or monk-fruit either water or sucralose; then gave them 75g of glucose and measured their blood sugar response. The study notes that there are many non-nutritive sweeteners (sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, neotame, stevia, and monk fruit) but they only tested sucralose. In fact, the study says “it has been demonstrated that the gastrointestinal tract (4,5) and the pancreas (6,7) can detect sugars through taste receptors and transduction mechanisms that are similar to those identified in taste cells in the mouth.” – that would indicate that monk fruit, stevia, allulose, etc… would be expected to have the same result as sucralose, since they are (plain and simple) sweet!

In 2023 a study was published where the researchers looked at a form of sucralose called “sucralose-6-acetate” which they found at typical concentrations of 0.5% in samples of pure sucralose. They performed a number of experiments where they tested sucralose-6-acetate in different concentrations and saw what it did to cells and DNA. They found that high concentrations caused changes in gene expression, intestinal barrier function (but only without typical intestinal bacteria), and breaks in DNA. The LOWEST concentration that problems were observed was at 353 micrograms per milliliter. Assuming their figure of 0.5% and taking a 0.08g dose of sucralose in a 600ml serving of Keto Chow, that would calculate to a theoretical 0.667 micrograms per milliliter in Keto Chow, that is 0.18% of the lowest experiment concentration that showed problems – or the experiment was 529.5 times higher than what is found in Keto Chow.

We do not recommend increasing the sweetener in Keto Chow by 529 times. That would be silly.