Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Sweet and Natural?
What is tagatose? I heard it mentioned as a sugar substitute, but it's a new one on me. Is it safe or just another sweetener we should avoid? And what's the latest word on the safety of Splenda?
Answer (Published 6/23/2008)

Tagatose is a natural sweetener that is 92 percent as sweet as sugar, but has only one-third of the calories. The FDA approved its use in foods and beverages in 2001. You'll see it in packaged cereals and diet sodas, and it is also used in mouthwash, toothpaste, lipstick and in various drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Healthy Eating - Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Nutrition - Want to change your diet? The Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online guide is your anti-inflammatory diet headquarters. Start your free trial and get access to an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, hundreds of recipes, eating guides, and more.

Tagatose is made from milk sugar (lactose) and is safe for people with diabetes. In fact, a study published in the February 2008 issue of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism suggests that taken before a meal, tagatose may prevent the blood sugar spikes that can lead to complications of diabetes. Along with stevia, a no-cal sweetener extracted from the leaves of a South American shrub, and erythritol, a natural substance new on the market, tagatose is the only sugar substitute I would consider for people with diabetes and others who can't tolerate sugar.

Splenda (sucralose) is the best selling artificial sweetener. It is made by substituting three chlorine molecules for three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule. This changes sugar into an artificial sweetener that can't be metabolized, meaning our bodies can't digest it or derive energy from it.

The safety of Splenda has been controversial for some time. Citizens for Health, a nonprofit group, maintains that adverse effects ranging from stomach pains to headaches and skin rashes have been reported by users. In April 2007, the group petitioned the FDA to withdraw approval until more is known about the sweetener's safety. To the best of my knowledge, studies on Splenda – those attesting to its safety and those warning of dangers – have all been done in animals. I can find no human data demonstrating that Splenda can cause any health problems; nor can I find human data proving its safety. I would follow the precautionary principle here and avoid it. The natural sugar substitutes mentioned above look better to me.

If you use artificial sweeteners, there's no proof that I've been able to locate that these products will actually help you lose weight. In fact, circumstantial evidence suggests that they may make matters worse: the number of Americans consuming artificially sweetened food and drink rose from 70 million in 1987 to 160 million in 2000. During that same period, obesity rates rose dramatically.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here