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Sucralose, Safety and the Microbiota

Contributor Bio

Alex Tarnava is the CEO of Drink HRW, and the primary inventor of the open-cup hydrogen tablets. Alex runs the clinical outreach program for our company, working with over a dozen universities coordinating research. Alex has also published research of his own. You can find it on his ResearchGate. Additionally, he has been interviewed for many prominent publications, such as Entrepreneur and Forbes, and on many popular Podcasts. You can find all of his interviews and articles on his media page.

Sucralose, Safety and the Microbiota

One of the questions we get most frequently is why do we put sucralose into our Rejuvenation Blue Raspberry. Despite having this in our FAQ section, few have read it. Further, our FAQ doesn’t address some other points such as its effect on the microbiota, so I believe it justified a full article. One of the things we fight against at Drink HRW is chemophobia. Safe and effective, that is what matters. Whether an ingredient is synthetic or natural has no relevance.

As for safety, sucralose has established this to quite a degree. From our FAQ page:

Function in a Hydrogen Tablet, Other “Natural” Options

Natural” sweeteners, such as stevia and monk fruit, aren’t particularly water soluble. The sweetness of these alternatives is also slow building, so a much higher input is required. Due to this high input, and other challenges present in manufacturing, costs increase substantially and the resulting end product diminishes dramatically in effectiveness. Our team does significant work in formulation, and while we have gotten both stevia and monk fruit “to work”, in a sense, it slows disintegration from ~75 seconds to ~5 minutes, and cuts the molecular hydrogen to 1/3 of retained levels that we observe in our currently marketed flavoured hydrogen tablet. That substantial drop in concentration and dosing of our hydrogen water was far too big a price for us. On top of this, the added costs, difficulty, and overwhelmingly less positive taste tests were strong motivators.

As for other “natural sweeteners”, such as xylitol, it is similar in sweetness to sugar and as such could not be used in the appropriate dosage to make a tablet. By that consideration alone, most options are not possible. As for sugar alcohols themselves, they tend to complex directly with magnesium during the reaction to make H2, and as such, do not have safety establishing them for use and are not suitable.

The Safety of Sucralose

From a scientific perspective there are no issues with sucralose, and in fact, its safety is established to a substantially larger degree than most “natural sweeteners”, such as stevia and monk fruit. One of the big issues our company is battling against is “chemophobia” and irrational fear mongering, which has become so prevalent in the “natural industry” based on no sound science, perpetrated by those speaking outside their fields of expertise. As we say across our website “safe and effective”, regardless if a molecule is “synthetic or natural”. While of course you can find publications decrying sucralose, this is true for all sweeteners. As science minded people, we must asses the total body of evidence while looking for what has been replicated by numerous teams. We also must consider the dosing required.

Sucralose for instance has had safety established in dogs up to 900 mg/kg/day for 12 months ( ) and has been established by Canadian Diabetes Association to have no adverse events taken at 9 mg/kg/day over a lifetime. For context, our hydrogen tablet has 10 mg of sucralose, total. This means that daily lifetime safety with no toxicity or adverse events has been declared at an amount to take 65 tablets a day for life, based on the sucralose in the hydrogen tablet and a ~150 lbs person.

This number of tablets (65 tablets) would very quickly lead to hypermagnesia with potentially serious adverse and even fatal effects:

Additionally, this same 65 tablets a day would amount to a substantial amount of actual sugar (dextrose), which while insignificantly dosed in our tablet as a necessary binder (all tablets must have sugar), at 65 a day, could contribute to increases in blood sugar leading to increased risk of many conditions.

Here is an except from the FDA on sucraloses safety:

“Results from studies in the FDA approval process indicated a lack of risk associated with eating sucralose.[16][17][18][19] When the estimated daily intake (EDI) is compared to the intake at which adverse effects are seen (known as the "highest no-effects limit", or HNEL at 1500 mg/kg BW/day,[20] a large margin of safety exists. The bulk of sucralose ingested is not absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract (gut) and is directly excreted in the feces, while 11–27% of it is absorbed.[5] The amount absorbed from the gut is largely removed from the blood stream by the kidneys and eliminated in the urine, with 20–30% of the absorbed sucralose being metabolized.[5] This means that only between 2–8% of sucralose consumed is metabolized, on average.”

Remember, the dose makes the poison. Even water itself is toxic when enough is consumed. As an alternative, the blue raspberry tablet is designed for taste. Our standard Rejuvenation hydrogen tablet contains no sucralose or flavours, and is more potent in delivering hydrogen water.

Sucralose and the Microbiota

As for sucralose and the microbiota, this is a common rebuttal from natural proponents once I address the safety point. It is becoming more and more clear how impactful our microbiota is for our health, longevity and risk of disease, so I understand the concerns completely. While sucralose does indeed have conflicting evidence on whether it affects our bacteria, a recent review article does appear to believe it has an impacti. I’ve been following this research very closely, and it still isn’t relevant. Sucralose, based on the evidence, is still the best option.

The studies used to demonstrate disruption in the microbiota relied on 35 - 115x the dosage used in our tablets based on a body weight of 150 lbs. There is no evidence the very low levels we use in the blue raspberry hydrogen tablets will have any impact. Further, in the same review, it shows that stevia also affects the microbiota and needs further study and other publications have shown stevia to negatively impact the microbiota, even in low doses.iiiii. We would need to use stevia in four or five times the volume we use sucralose. It also has a lower safety threshold, with EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) setting the upper limit at 4 mg/kg/dayiv, much lower than what is allowed for sucralose. Other “natural” sweeteners, such as monk fruit, have no evidence either way.

Further, sugar dramatically affects the microbiota in a negative wayvvi. The amount needed to make a sweetened beverage of hydrogen water would be more impactful than the low amounts needed using either sucralose or stevia. Despite sugar’s negative impacts and the high sugar amount in red wine, drinking red wine has been attributed to a richer and more diverse microbiota in both a systematic review from last year and a headline grabbing publication of three separate cohort studies published the end of August.viiviii

This brings me to my next point; if red wine, despite being rich in sugar, can positively impact the microbiota, perhaps it is relevant that the sucralose is in hydrogen water, which also positively impacts our microbiota.ixxxixiixiii To make the matter more complicated, for those claiming the dangers of sucralose and wanting us to use stevia instead, H2 levels in the formulations we’ve attempted with stevia have yielded 1/3 the H2 as those using sucralose. Hydrogen has shown a dose-dependent response in many models, so sacrificing H2 to swap in stevia, which is arguably significantly more of a risk, is a double-whammy of a downgrade when it comes to health outcomes.

I know this position will be contentious for many readers and I am fine with that. I’ve never been OK with following trends to maximize profits when the trend is wrong. Myself, and our team, are dedicated to making the safest and most effective products, regardless whether a molecule is synthetic or natural, or has fallen out of favour in certain communities. That said, new evidence will always contribute to us changing our minds.

For those compelled by the science, enter code “SUCRALOSE” at check out, add 2 bottles of Rejuvenation Blue Raspberry and get the 3rd free.