Field of Science

Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar

I was reading the South Beach Diet book the other night (never mind why!) and noticed that the author recommends (without giving an explicit brand name) an artificial sweetener derived from sugar. A friend on the diet will only use sucralose, saying that the only one that "works right" with the diet. (The SB book itself says it doesn't matter, it's just personal preference.) A recent ad campaign claims, "Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar". As a chemist, I read this and cringe!

Sucralose is made by chlorinating sugar, that is replacing 3 of the 8 hydroxyl (OH) groups with chlorine atoms. [Ed: Yes, I know, chlorine gas, Cl2 is poisonous, but this doens't mean that anything contains a chlorine atom is a poison, despite the claims here. But that's another post!] Such a substitution can utterly change the properties of the molecule, including it's taste. For example, replacing the OH group on ethanol (the alcohol we drink) produces an effective refrigerant (it's used as a local anesthetic, in fact), but not a good drink! An even smaller change, the inverting of two groups on the molecule that makes up spearmint oil, changes it into caraway oil (and you certainly would never say that mint tea tastes like rye bread). Bottom line, there is no reason that any given derivative of sugar will taste anything like sugar!

Much is actually known about the molecular characteristics necessary for sweetness.


  1. I was zipping through my blogroll as fast as I could looking for new, interesting posts before bedtime and I just had to slow down here and read your last four posts. I appreciate the fact that they are interesting, enlightening and short.

  2. Thanks! I read and enjoy webioscosm as well....

  3. Poison or not, it's still the case that our species has had a rather unfortunate history with regards to chlorinating hydrocarbon compounds. Wonder if anyone is checking whether sucralose gets metabolized to anything that bioconcentrates?

  4. Poison or not, it's still the case that our species has

  5. Sucralose is not metabolized by the body, that's why it's considered to be a no calorie sweetener. It goes through the body unchanged, and does not biodegrade readily although it does eventually(5% of it every 28 days biodegrads).

    for more info:

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. OMG riveting stuff ppl... ZzzzZzzz

  8. As someone who is going rounds and rounds about this so calles "safe" sweetener with a company I'd like to rep for but being a mostly natural,organic foods etc type person and one who personally has used Stevia for years instead. I am a little confused by the above, I want/need specifics, details and I'm not sure who Ed is and if any of the above is slight sarcasm or not. I've read much of the "science" (snore) on this substance and a lot of the 'concerns' were at levels not plausible for a human to ingest in the said time frame used. I don't agree with fluoride use either yet it's sadly mistaken to be safe and people blindly use it daily in toothpaste and they add it to our water..yet it is toxic and a carcinogen.

    I have been trying to get details from an actual chemist and have reached out to a sugar and a pesticide chemist this week and am hoping for a response soon.

    I don't trust the FDA...their track record is deplorable, Grade F in my opinion, but blindly too many do. I want to rep for this health/nutrition company, make money, help others as many have been but I'm stuck on their use of this ingredient. Thanks! Kate


Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS