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Is Using Splenda a Danger to Your Health?

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Worried your coffee and tea sweetener is secretly your health nemesis? A recent study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health found that male mice fed high doses of sucralose, aka Splenda, daily throughout their lives developed malignant tumors and hematopoietic neoplasias (in other words, leukemia, lymphoma, and other plasma cell disorders).

Researchers from the Ramazzini Institute, an independent laboratory based in Italy, administered sucralose in mice's feeds at concentrations of 0, 500, 2,000, 8,000, and 16,000 ppm. The alarming results (most significant at 2,000 and 16,000) prompted the Center for Science in the Public Interest to change their safety rating of sucralose from "caution" to "avoid" in the group's Chemical Cuisine glossary of food additives.

Here's the thing: The study also showed there was actually a decrease in cancerous tumors in female mice, from 67 percent exposed to no sucralose to 55.4 percent exposed to 8,000 ppm. At 8,000 ppm the rate was 53 percent in males, 10 percent lower than with no sucralose at all. So what does that mean?

The key here is the exposure levels. The lowest dose the study used is approximately 12 times the recommended daily limit for humans. The suggested safe amount is 5 milligrams per 2.2 pounds of body weight, meaning a 165-pound person can safely consume about 30 packets of Splenda in a day. It would take a chronic sugar habit to even come close to consuming that level, especially on a daily basis.

When we examine the strength of scientific evidence, it's important to look at conclusive evidence, not one single study. A systematic review (one of the gold standards of research) published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice in July 2015 looked at the relationship between artificial sweetener consumption and cancer. They concluded their review does not conclusively support the carcinogenicity of artificial sweeteners. (Important note: This was an analysis of 599,741 human participants vs. 853 mice.)

Now let me be clear: I'm not saying we should be consuming large doses of sucralose, mainly because I would question what that overall diet looks like. Are you drinking too much diet soda and not enough water? Are there a lot of overly processed foods in your home instead of plenty of fruits and veggies? You know what you need to do! But if you're using a packet or two in you daily coffee, knock yourself out!

 

Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN

Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist, author of The Small Change Diet, blogger for U.S. News and an advisory board member of Shape Magazine. With her extremely dynamic and outgoing personality, Keri has conducted over thousands of media interviews globally.  More →

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