Can Using This Popular Sweetener Damage Your DNA?

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Woman sipping soda

If you use the sugar subsitite Splenda or eat foods that contain it, researchers have some unsettling news for you.

Consuming sucralose — which is often sold under the trade name Splenda — creates a chemical during digestion that can break up your DNA, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.

The chemical is known as sucralose-6-acetate. Researchers say it also is found in small amounts in sucralose itself.

The researchers say sucralose-6-acetate is genotoxic, meaning it breaks up DNA — the part of our cells that contains genetic instructions we need to develop, survive and reproduce.

In a summary of the study’s findings, co-author Susan Schiffman — an adjunct professor in the joint department of biomedical engineering at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — says:

“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. 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.”

During the study, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, the researchers conducted experiments on cells in a lab. They exposed various types of cells — including human blood cells and human liver cells — to sucralose and sucralose-6-acetate. The goal was to mimic what would happen in the human body.

When tissue in the gut wall was exposed to sucralose-6-acetate, gut cells “had increased activity in genes related to oxidative stress, inflammation and carcinogenicity,” Schiffman says in the summary.

The exposure caused a condition known as “leaky gut,” in which the wall of the gut becomes more permeable. Leaky gut creates a situation where things that normally would be flushed out of the body instead are absorbed into the bloodstream.

In the summary, Schiffman says the study results raise serious questions about the safety of sucralose:

“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.”

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