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Your 'Zero-Calorie' Sweeteners Aren't Actually Calorie-Free

If you rely on Splenda as your go-to calorie-free sweetener, this video is going to rock your world.

Tom Scott teamed up with YouTube channel Technicality to create a bombshell video about the truth surrounding Splenda: each packet of this "calorie-free" sweetener actually contains four calories, but Splenda can still market itself as a zero-calorie sweetener thanks to loopholes in FDA regulations.

Splenda advertises itself as a low-calorie sweetener since it doesn't use table sugar to sweeten your beverage or food. Instead, it utilizes sucralose, an artificial sweetener that contains zero calories and is about 600 times sweeter than sugar. However, Splenda also contains maltodextrin and dextrose (which is another way to say glucose, one of the basic sugars that make up table sugar). That dextrose, according to the video, is what makes up the calories in a packet of Splenda.

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While the video does a great job of explaining the science of glucose and sugar and uses a well-cited test for glucose, it doesn't explain why the dextrose is in Splenda in the first place.

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Dextrose and maltodextrin are used as bulking agents in Splenda, since the amount of sucralose needed to sweeten the sugar is extremely small and doesn't need a packet the size of Splenda's to fit in. In other artificial sweeteners, including Sweet N Low, Sweet One, and Equal, dextrose is also used as a bulking agent, meaning that all of these artificial "zero-calorie" sweeteners also contain at least a couple of calories per packet.

Even natural zero-calorie sweeteners, like stevia or monkfruit, have some calories. They usually contain erythritol or xylitol, both of which contribute calories per gram in lower amounts than sugar, to help mask some of the off-flavor aftertastes the natural sweeteners may contain. Dextrose can also do the same thing in artificial sweeteners with bitter aftertastes, such as aspartame and saccharin.

While this all sounds scandalous for the alternative sweetener packets we know and love, we have to keep in mind that they are still much lower in calories than sugar packets, which contain 15-24 calories per packet. That's at least four times the calories in any of the packets above, so at least Equal, Sweet One, Splenda, and the like aren't as caloric as real sugar.

The next time you use a "zero-calorie" sweetener, however, make sure you add at least a few calories to the total count of your drink per packet.