By John Anderer
Could artificial sweeteners damage your DNA? Concerning new research by a team at North Carolina State University connects Splenda, a popular zero-calorie sweetener and sugar substitute, with the formation of a “genotoxic” chemical in the body — meaning it breaks up DNA. Researchers report the chemical forms when the body digests sucralose (Splenda). It is also found in trace amounts of Splenda to start. Study authors believe these findings raise some serious questions regarding how the sweetener may contribute to health problems.
Previous work by the same research team established that several fat-soluble compounds form in the gut after ingesting sucralose. One of those compounds is sucralose-6-acetate.
“Our new work establishes that sucralose-6-acetate is genotoxic,” says Susan Schiffman, corresponding author of the study and an adjunct professor in the joint department of biomedical engineering at NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We also found that trace amounts of sucralose-6-acetate can be found in off-the-shelf sucralose, even before it is consumed and metabolized.”
“To put this in context, the European Food Safety Authority has a threshold of toxicological concern for all genotoxic substances of 0.15 micrograms per person per day,” Schiffman continues in a university release. “Our work suggests that the trace amounts of sucralose-6-acetate in a single, daily sucralose-sweetened drink exceed that threshold. And that’s not even accounting for the amount of sucralose-6-acetate produced as metabolites after people consume sucralose.”
“It’s something you should not be eating”
To conduct this study, researchers put together a series of in vitro experiments exposing human blood cells to sucralose-6-acetate and subsequently monitoring for genotoxicity markers.
“In short, we found that sucralose-6-acetate is genotoxic, and that it effectively broke up DNA in cells that were exposed to the chemical,” Prof. Schiffman says.
The researchers also conducted in vitro tests exposing human gut tissues to sucralose-6-acetate.
“Other studies have found that sucralose can adversely affect gut health, so we wanted to see what might be happening there,” Prof. Schiffman notes. “When we exposed sucralose and sucralose-6-acetate to gut epithelial tissues – the tissue that lines your gut wall – we found that both chemicals cause ‘leaky gut.’ Basically, they make the wall of the gut more permeable. The chemicals damage the ‘tight junctions,’ or interfaces, where cells in the gut wall connect to each other.”
“A leaky gut is problematic, because it means that things that would normally be flushed out of the body in feces are instead leaking out of the gut and being absorbed into the bloodstream.”
Study authors also assessed the genetic activity of the gut cells in an effort to observe how they responded to the presence of sucralose-6-acetate.
“We found that gut cells exposed to sucralose-6-acetate had increased activity in genes related to oxidative stress, inflammation and carcinogenicity,” Prof. Schiffman concludes.
“This work raises a host of concerns about the potential health effects associated with sucralose and its metabolites. It’s time to revisit the safety and regulatory status of sucralose, because the evidence is mounting that it carries significant risks. If nothing else, I encourage people to avoid products containing sucralose. It’s something you should not be eating.”
The study is published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Part B.
You might also be interested in:
- 8 Ways Artificial Sweeteners Are Bad For You: Why ‘Sugar-Free’ Isn’t Always Healthier
- Not so sweet: Artificial sweetener aspartame linked to anxiety
- Artificial sweeteners may cause weight gain, worsen risk of diabetes
Source: Study Finds
John considers himself a pretty nice guy, and an even better writer. He is admittedly biased, though.
Image: Artificial Sweetener – Splenda by Bukowsky18 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
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