Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is 400-700 times sweeter than sugar, without the bitter aftertaste of similar products. It contains no calories and is marketed as beneficial for weight loss. However, as with other artificial sweeteners, there are concerns about its safety.
The Initial Report
In 2012 Dr. Morando Soffriti of the non-profit Italian Ramazzini Institute introduced evidence at a cancer conference in London that mice, when administered sucralose from the prenatal state until death, showed an increase in the occurrence of malignant tumors. At that time, he urged caution and encouraged further studies but received fierce backlash from industry-related backers accusing him of scaremongering.
Citing what they referred to as flawed science, Splenda manufacturers made allegations that regulatory agencies previously dismissed the laboratory’s work. According to an EPA blog, however, only four of the lab’s assessments were put on hold in a study on methanol due to instances of respiratory infection found in the test animals, which brought the final diagnosis into question.
In Soffriti’s recently released study, 457 male and 396 female mice were fed different dilutions of sucralose beginning day 12 of gestation and continuing until their deaths. When all but 6.7 percent of the mice had died, those remaining were euthanized so scientists could study their organs.
Researchers discovered increased incidence of various cancers and malignant tumors in both the male and female mice. Dose-related occurrences were found with the highest levels at 2000 and 16,000 ppm.
Soffritti defended his methods, explaining the importance of prolonged observation and tracking the effects of low dose exposure. The doses given to the mice were equivalent to drinking 10 artificially sweetened sodas per day, so this amount is not unreasonable considering sucralose’s prevalence in so many different foods, even some not deemed sugar free.
A Closer Look
It now appears that The Center for Science in the Public Interest is in agreement with the Ramazzini Institute’s findings on sucralose. The center now suggests that, instead of using caution with sucralose, people avoid it altogether. According to Lisa Lefferts, MSPH and senior scientist at the center, studies gain credibility if they are conducted with no special interest incentives, versus those conducted by manufacturers.
How Sucralose Is Made
Sucralose is created through a complicated process and composed of numerous unpronounceable chemicals. The overall procedure bonds chlorine with the sugar molecule to increase its sweetness. Then chemicals are added to keep the body from absorbing the finished product.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not require manufacturers to list ingredients that comprise less than two percent of the total makeup of the product. Sucralose includes only two percent of formaldehyde, ethyl alcohol and methanol, along with a virtual cocktail of other questionable chemicals, but the FDA has deemed it ninety-eight percent pure.
Is It Safe?
One of the arguments for the safety of sucralose is that the body does not recognize it as fuel, so it passes through the system without being metabolized. Unfortunately, there’s disagreement about how much is actually absorbed, leaving the question without a definitive answer.
Here are some of the reports from different agencies:
- The FDA claims 11 to 20 percent absorption
- The Japanese Food Sanitation Council says 40 percent absorption
- McNeil Nutritionals claims zero absorption
- Sucralose manufacturers Tate & Lyle say 15 percent absorption
The absorption percentage variations make it hard to discern which, if any, are correct.
Conflicting reports and the presence of many other carcinogens in our environment make it difficult to predict the long-term effects of sucralose. There are also anecdotal testimonies of bloating, cramping, diarrhea and weight gain from its use.
In the end, it’s up to you to research and decide whether this or any other artificial sweetener is worth the risks.