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Diet Pepsi Is Now Sweetened With Sucralose. But What Is Sucralose?

It was discovered while researching insecticides, you probably know it as Splenda, and it’s already in a lot of other foods.

PepsiCo / Via PRNewsFoto

There's a reformulated Diet Pepsi in stores now that contains a new artificial sweetener: a blend of sucralose and acesulfame K.

Sales of Diet Pepsi, traditionally sweetened with aspartame, have fallen by roughly 35 percent over the past decade, the Washington Post reported. The problem, PepsiCo believes, was the aspartame.

Approved by the FDA in 1981 and widely regarded as safe by food safety agencies, aspartame has been stigmatized since a 1996 report linked it to an increased rate of brain tumors in the 1980s. Companies have been searching for a new zero-calorie sugar alternative as consumers have been avoiding aspartame in larger numbers.

"Diet cola drinkers in the U.S. told us they wanted aspartame-free Diet Pepsi," said Seth Kaufman, SVP Pepsi and Flavors Portfolio, PepsiCo North America Beverages, in a press release. The brand hopes switching to sucralose will help win back customers, many of whom are already familiar with sucralose via Splenda, a well-known artificial sweetener.

Old Diet Pepsi also contained the artificial sweetener acesulfame K (Ace-K). As consumer concerns mainly surrounded aspartame, the new formulation will continue to use Ace-K.

So what do we know about Pepsi's new artificial sweetener?

Meet the sucralose molecule.

Molekuul / Getty Images

You can call it C12H19Cl3O8. It is not found in nature, and must be synthetically produced. It is extremely sweet (about 600 times as sweet as sugar) so only small amounts are required, and since the body cannot digest sucralose, it does not contribute calories to the diet.

Because of its extreme taste, it's known as a "high-intensity sweetener," a category that also includes saccharin, aspartame, Ace-K, neotame, and advantame.

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