Splenda® – not so splendid?

Earlier this year we reported on disturbing issues around alternatives to sugar in Artificial sweeteners: as bad as sugar? Now it’s time for sucralose (a widely used artificial sweetener sold under the trade name Splenda®) to come under the microscope. According to a recent study from North Carolina State University and Avazyme Inc. — an analytical testing company — when sucralose is metabolized in the guts of rats it produces previously unidentified metabolites.

Why is this sparking interest? This finding differs from the studies used to garner regulatory approval for sucralose, which reported that the substance was not broken down in the body. The new study also found that sucralose itself was found in fatty tissues of the body.

The researchers used the same experimental model used by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to assess the safety of foods based on accepted daily intake, but also used techniques designed to detect both fat- and water-soluble metabolites, unlike the studies submitted to the FDA when seeking FDA approval for sucralose. Given that the metabolism studies that the FDA’s approval were based upon reported that ingested sucralose was not metabolized, this more sophisticated analysis produced disturbing results.

Specifically, the metabolites were acetylated compounds, which are highly lipophilic — meaning they are easily dissolved in fat. That means they are more likely to stick around in the body. In addition, the researchers found that sucralose itself was detected in the adipose, or fatty, tissues of rats two weeks after the rats had stopped receiving sucralose.

What does this mean? With sucralose creating metabolites whose potential health effects we know little or nothing about, the researchers feel it may be time to revisit the safety and regulatory status of sucralose.

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