Sucralose is a zero-calorie artificial sweetener that is derived from sugar. It is made by replacing three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule with chlorine atoms. This modification makes sucralose incredibly sweet, approximately 600 times sweeter than sugar. Despite its intense sweetness, sucralose does not provide any calories or impact blood sugar levels, making it popular as a sugar substitute in various food and beverage products. It is known for its ability to retain sweetness even at high temperatures, making it suitable for use in baked goods and other heated applications. Sucralose is often found in products like diet sodas, sugar-free desserts, and low-calorie snacks.
Sucralose, the chemical found in Splenda, has been associated with significant health effects according to a study conducted by North Carolina State University. These effects include DNA damage, an elevated risk of cancer, and a compromised intestinal barrier.
The study specifically identified a metabolite of sucralose known as sucralose-6-acetate, which was found to be genotoxic. Genotoxic substances have the ability to break down the genetic material of DNA, potentially leading to adverse health effects.
The breakdown and rearrangement of DNA strands, as a result of sucralose exposure, have been previously linked to an increased risk of cancerous cell formation. This indicates a potential concern for individuals regularly consuming sucralose-containing products.
The study also revealed that both sucralose and its metabolite, sucralose-6-acetate, can damage the "tight junctions" that help maintain the integrity of the intestinal barrier. These tight junctions are essential for preventing the leakage of toxins from the gut into the bloodstream.
A compromised intestinal barrier, often referred to as a "leaky gut," can lead to the absorption of toxins into the bloodstream that would normally be eliminated through feces. This suggests a potential mechanism by which sucralose could have broader health implications.
Even if efforts are made to remove sucralose-6-acetate from sucralose products, the study highlights that gut bacteria can still generate this compound. This raises concerns about ongoing exposure to the metabolite, regardless of its presence in the original product.
Previous research has already identified various adverse effects associated with sucralose consumption. These effects include dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut bacteria), alterations in blood glucose and insulin levels, and damage to beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Artificial sweeteners, including sucralose, have been increasingly recognized for their inflammatory potential and their impact on the gut microbiome. Disruption of the gut microbiome has been linked to various health issues.
Artificial sweeteners like sucralose are classified as ultra-processed foods. Studies have shown that consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events, particularly in individuals who have already experienced a heart attack.
While artificial sweeteners may be generally tolerable for healthy individuals, it is advised to be cautious. If they cause symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, constipation, or diarrhea, it may be prudent to avoid or limit their consumption.
Fox News. (2023, June 7). Sucralose, a chemical in Splenda, is found to cause 'significant health effects' in new study. Retrieved from https://www.foxnews.com/health/sucralose-chemical-splenda-found-cause-significant-health-effects-new-study
Magnuson, B. A., Roberts, A., Nestmann, E. R., & Bermudez, E. (2017). Critical review of the current literature on the safety of sucralose. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 106(Pt A), 324-355. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2017.06.047
Schiffman, S. S., Rother, K. I., & Sucralose Toxicity Information Center. (2013). Sucralose, a synthetic organochlorine sweetener: Overview of biological issues. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 16(7), 399-451. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2013.842523