FoodFacts.com has never been a fan of artificial sweeteners. Most are controversial, have undergone insufficient safety testing and have been linked everything from gastrointestinal disturbances to cancer. We advocate for the avoidance of artificial sweeteners and the products in which they are contained, like diet soft drinks and low-fat, reduced-calorie food products.
Splenda (the brand name for sucralose) is now joining the list of artificial sweeteners with questionable health effects. While sucralose has been deemed “safe” by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for years, they are now downgrading it to “caution” after the release of an Italian animal study linking sucralose to a higher risk of leukemia. CSPI says it is waiting for the review of the study before deciding on the long-term safety grade it will finally assign for sucralose in its Chemical Cuisine guide to food additives.
The study that has called the safety of sucralose into question comes from the Ramazzini Institute in Bologna, Italy. Here, researchers fed 843 laboratory mice varying doses of sucralose daily from when they were fetuses until they died. Post-mortem examinations on the mice showed an association between the development of leukemia and lifetime sucralose consumption. The more sucralose the mice consumed, the higher their risk of leukemia.
Researchers noted that previous studies involving rats showed increases in liver and lung tumors in male animals consuming aspartame. These studies increased the health concerns regarding aspartame and have led consumers to switch from aspartame sweeteners to sucralose (Splenda). Splenda has been widely promoted as a safer alternative. Researchers believe that with this new link between sucralose consumption and leukemia, further study is urgently needed in order to assess cancer risk in humans.
The rise in rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes worldwide has led to an increase in the consumption of reduced-calorie food products and diet beverages. All of these products contain some type of artificial sweetener. They can even be found in over the counter medications. In addition, people are adding Splenda to their coffee, tea or homemade beverages like lemonade. It is often used in cooking and baking as well. The Center for Science in the Public Interest points out that while sucralose may prove to be safer than saccharin, aspartame and acesulfame potassium, this new study warrants careful scrutiny before we can be confident that the sweetener is safe for use in foods and beverages.
Everyone in the FoodFacts.com community is aware of the potential health effects of artificial sweeteners. This new information calling into question the safety of sucralose places yet another sweetener into the questionable category. While it’s understandable that there are many in the worldwide population who seek sugar alternatives based on health and weight concerns, it is so important for all of us to remain aware of the potential risks involved in the consumption of artificial sweeteners. Processed foods and beverages contain too much added sugar. And for those that want to avoid sugar, manufacturers have replaced it with too much artificial sweetener. We can continue to do our best to avoid both by reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists and making our best effort to prepare healthy, whole foods in our own kitchens.