America’s favorite artificial sweetener could have bitter health effects, including damage to your DNA.
Splenda is the brand name for sucralose, often added to diet sodas, baked goods, chewing gum, gelatins and frozen desserts.
It’s even found in pharmaceuticals like Tylenol, Pepcid, and cold and flu medications.
Splenda is 600 times sweeter than sugar and is America’s top-selling artificial sweetener, with sales about twice that of its closest rival, Sweet’n Low.
But sucralose has been shown to be genotoxic, meaning it breaks down chromosome DNA and can lead to cancer, according to a new study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.
In the human body, sucralose breaks down into a compound called sucralose-6-acetate, which can damage the lining of the gut.
“Other studies have shown that sucralose can harm gut health, so we wanted to see what might be going on there,” Susan Schiffman, PhD, study author and adjunct professor at North Carolina State University, said in a press release.
What they found was alarming: “Sucralose-6-acetate significantly increased the expression of genes associated with inflammation, oxidative stress, and cancer,” the study authors wrote.
“Our in vitro studies used human tissue, so the results are directly relevant to the human body,” Dr. Schiffman added.
The new study adds to previous research that found that sucralose and sucralose-6-acetate can also cause intestinal damage.
“When we exposed sucralose and sucralose-6-acetate to intestinal epithelial tissue – the tissue that lines your gut wall – we found that both chemicals cause ‘leaky gut,'” Dr. Schiffman said.
“Basically, they make the wall of the gut more permeable. A leaky gut is problematic because it means things that would normally pass out of the body in the feces are leaking out of the gut and being absorbed into the bloodstream,” Dr. Schiffman added.
“Independent scientific studies show that ingestion of sucralose can damage the cell membranes of the intestine and cause irritable bowel syndrome”, Dr. Schiffman told Newsweek.
Manufacturers of artificial sweeteners, however, claim their products are safe.
“Sucralose has undergone one of the most extensive and thorough testing programs of any food additive in history, resulting in consensus on its safety throughout the world. global scientific and regulatory community,” a representative from the International Sweeteners Association told Newsweek.
Some health experts also question the relevance of the new study.
“The findings raise potentially concerning findings that merit further study, but do not practically reflect what occasional or even frequent ingestion of sucralose-sweetened foods and beverages has on health,” said Dr John Damianos. , resident of Yale School of Medicine Hospital. says Medical News Today.
Nonetheless, artificial sweeteners have been scrutinized for years, and several studies have linked the products to health risks.
A 2020 study published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that sucralose in combination with carbohydrates (like those in baked goods) can quickly turn a healthy person into one with high blood sugar, reports the Washington Post.
And in May, the Recommended by the World Health Organization that artificial sweeteners like Splenda are not used for weight control.
The use of artificial sweeteners “provides no long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children” and “there may be … an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and adult mortality,” according to a WHO press release. release.
Considering the risks of all added sweeteners — artificial and natural — Dr. Damianos encourages people to consider healthy, low- or no-sugar options.
“Instead of club soda or diet soda, switch to seltzer water,” recommends Dr. Damianos, adding, “Instead of highly processed foods and drinks to satisfy that sweet tooth, have fruits with their natural sugars. combined with an abundance of health-promoting fiber and phytonutrients.