Recent investigations have disclosed the genotoxic characteristics of a compound produced during the digestion of sucralose, a widespread artificial sweetener marketed under the brand name Splenda.
This substance, identified in minuscule amounts in the sweetener, raises questions about the potential implications its consumption could have on human health.
Previous research conducted by the team identified that sucralose consumption resulted in the creation of various fat-soluble compounds in the gut, one of which is sucralose-6-acetate.
Susan Schiffman, the principal author of the study and an adjunct professor in the joint department of biomedical engineering at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, states, “We’ve confirmed that sucralose-6-acetate is genotoxic.” She further notes that sucralose-6-acetate can be detected in retail sucralose, even prior to its consumption and metabolism.
Schiffman points to the toxicological concern threshold for all genotoxic substances, established by the European Food Safety Authority, set at 0.15 micrograms per individual daily. The researchers imply that the trace amounts of sucralose-6-acetate in a single daily beverage sweetened with sucralose exceed this threshold, not taking into account the sucralose-6-acetate produced after sucralose consumption.
The investigation incorporated a series of in vitro experiments where human blood cells were exposed to sucralose-6-acetate to detect genotoxicity markers. According to Schiffman, these tests revealed the genotoxic nature of sucralose-6-acetate, as it induced DNA fragmentation in the exposed cells.
In vitro tests were also performed with human gut tissues exposed to sucralose-6-acetate. Schiffman remarks, “Upon exposure to both sucralose and sucralose-6-acetate, we discovered that the chemicals caused ‘leaky gut,’ damaging the ‘tight junctions’ or cell interfaces, increasing the permeability of the gut wall.” A leaky gut enables substances that are usually discarded in feces to escape the gut and be absorbed into the bloodstream.
The team examined the genetic activity of gut cells in response to sucralose-6-acetate and found an increase in gene activity related to oxidative stress, inflammation, and carcinogenicity.
Schiffman concludes, “This research unveils several concerns regarding the potential health implications connected to sucralose and its byproducts. Given the accumulating evidence of its potential risks, it is crucial to reassess the safety and regulatory status of sucralose. At the very least, I would advise people to avoid products containing sucralose.”
This study has been published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B. The author team, comprising members from UNC Chapel Hill and NC State, report no conflicts of interest. The Engineering Foundation at NC State provided funding for this research.