2023-06-07| R&D

From Sweet to Risky: The Alarming Findings on Sucralose’s Genotoxicity

by GeneOnline
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Sucralose, a widely used artificial sweetener, has been found to carry potential health risks. It can cause DNA damage, inflammation, and “leaky gut” effects. During digestion, sucralose generates a compound called sucralose-6-acetate, which is the main cause contributing to possible health issues. Additionally, commercial sucralose itself contains trace amounts of sucralose-6-acetate, further heightening concerns. Regulatory reassessment and avoiding products with sucralose are recommended in light of these findings.

Related article: Should People Looking to Lose Weight Skip Sugar Substitutes?

The Hidden Dangers of Sucralose Unveiled

Recent research has revealed that commonly used sucralose, a specific type of artificial sweetener, may raise a potential carcinogenic risk. This sugar substitute has been discovered to induce DNA breakage, alter gene expression, and subsequently promote inflammation, oxidative stress, and the manifestation of cancer-related biomarkers.

The commonly found sucralose brand in the market is Splenda, widely used in a variety of foods and beverages such as carbonated drinks, low-calorie fruit drinks, sweet flavored wines, yogurt, breakfast cereals, and ice cream. Sucralose is approximately 600 times sweeter than natural sucrose. 

Researchers from North Carolina State University found that sucralose generates sucralose-6-acetate after undergoing intestinal digestion. Moreover, sucralose-6-acetate, as a lipid-soluble compound, facilitates bioaccumulation. As stated in the paper: “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.”

The Call for Consumer Awareness and Regulatory Action

In addition to the sucralose-6-acetate produced during digestion, commercial sucralose itself also contains as much as 0.67% of sucralose-6-acetate. Susan Schiffman, a corresponding author of the study, said: ”When we exposed sucralose and sucralose-6-acetate to gut epithelial cells – the tissue that lines your gut wall – we found that both chemicals cause ’leaky gut.’ 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.”

It is worth noting that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has established a toxicological concern threshold for all genotoxic substances at 0.15 micrograms per person per day. However, the study indicates that the trace levels of sucralose-6-acetate found in a single daily beverage sweetened with sucralose exceed this threshold. Moreover, this doesn’t even take into account the additional sucralose-6-acetate produced as metabolites after consuming sucralose.

Exploring another point of view, regulatory bodies like the FDA and The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)  have deemed sucralose safe for consumption within recommended daily limits. However, the study suggests that sucralose-6-acetate is genotoxic and may pose risks. The researchers call for a reevaluation of the safety and regulatory status of sucralose, urging individuals to consider avoiding products containing sucralose.

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