Is Sucralose Genotoxic

Misinformation spreads like wildfire. The prevalence of social media and circulation of information in the digital age, is faster and has more reach than ever. Today's wildfire - sucralose. 

A recent study conducted at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, investigated the effects of sucralose-6 acetate (“S6A”), on DNA and found that the chemical constituent byproduct of sucralose, could be genotoxic (damaging to DNA). We are going to discuss what this study investigated and the current research on the non-nutritive sweetener, sucralose in more detail to discover if sucralose really is genotoxic.

What Is Sucralose

Sucralose is a non-nutritive sweetener commonly used as the basis of the no-calorie sugar substitute, Splenda. The difference between sucralose and other sweeteners is that it’s made from real sugar.

Sucralose has no aftertaste, therefore it is a commonly preferred sugar substitute in consumer packaged goods, such as oats, yogurt, and supplements. Sugar is not absorbed or metabolized by the body, thus it has no effect on energy or caloric intake. This is achieved by swapping the hydroxyl molecule in sugar to chlorine.

Is Sucralose Safe and Healthy

Since its introduction nearly 25 years ago all studies and reviews conducted by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), have shown that sucralose is safe for consumption and does not have any neurological, carcinogenic, or adverse effects.

Non-sugar substitutes can be extremely beneficial and helpful to those that may be diabetic or suffer from obesity since it does not spike blood glucose or insulin.

More than 60% of American adults exceed the recommended daily limit for added sugar intake and this excess sugar consumption has led to half of American adults suffering with life-altering and life-shortening chronic diseases like pre-diabetes, diabetes, and obesity.

Is Sucralose Genotoxic

A recent study conducted at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, investigated the effects of sucralose-6 acetate (“S6A”), on DNA and found that the chemical constituent byproduct of sucralose, could be genotoxic.

Now, let’s discuss the methodology and what this study investigated.

What Did The Study Investigate

The study focused and investigated the chemical compound S6A, which is different than sucralose. This study did not investigate sucralose the non-nutritive sweetener. [Sucralose-6-acetate] is a chemical compound that is formed during the manufacturing of sucralose; it is removed along with any other impurities during the manufacturing process, before being used as a sweetener. This research studied sucralose-6-acetate in isolation, not sucralose the sweetener. 

What Was The Study Methodology

Second, this was an In Vitro study. In vitro comes from the Latin term "in glass." The term refers to studies of biological properties that are done in a test tube (i.e. in a glass vessel) rather than in a human or animal.

In vitro studies are often contrasted to in vivo ("in life") studies which are done inside an organism.

A major drawback is their failure to capture the inherent complexity of organ systems. For example, in vitro models may not account for interactions between cells and biochemical processes that occur during turnover and metabolism.

This methodology allows scientists to evaluate various biological phenomena in specific cells without the distractions and potential confounding variables present in whole organisms.

Therefore, if this were an In Vivo study, conducted with human clinical trials, we would have a much better picture, of what the effect of S6A really is.

Human clinical trials have all shown no adverse effects with the use of sucralose as a sweetener. The NIH and NCI have stated that there is not enough evidence to show any link of sucralose to cancer.

Randomized controlled trials, with human participants, would show a much different outcome, as there are thousands of biological processes and confounding variables unaccounted for. 

Sucralose And Gut Health

Other studies showing a link between gut dysbiosis and sucralose, have been retracted. 

Coincidently, this study was published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.  In the same journal, a 12-week rat study, researchers investigated the health effects of sucralose on the gut microbiome. The results indicated that there was a reduction in the total number of healthy gut bacteria, a reduction in beneficial fecal microflora, and an increase in fecal pH [R].

The study also indicated that sucralose increased the expression of certain cytochrome P450 (CYP450) enzymes and the transporter protein, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), the latter of which was considered evidence that Splenda or sucralose might interfere with the absorption/bioavailability of nutrients and drugs [RR].

Just 12 months after this study was published, an expert panel reviewed the study and concluded it to be deficient in many aspects.

Published in the Journal of The Regulatory Toxicology And Pharmacology just one year later. In the rigorous study, the expert panel found that the rat study was deficient in several critical areas and that its results cannot be interpreted as evidence that either Splenda, or sucralose, produced adverse effects in male rats, including effects on gastrointestinal microflora, body weight, CYP450 and P-gp activity, and nutrient and drug absorption. The study conclusions are not consistent with published literature and not supported by the data presented [R].

Is Sucralose Genotoxic: Takeaway

Unfortunately, in an attempt to make headlines, Dr. Susan Schiffman falsely claimed that Sucralose contains S6A and that after we consume the sweetener, sucralose turns into S6A inside the body and causes DNA damage, gene damage, or is genotoxic. These claims are false. The article is not sound science and its findings have no impact on the safety

In conclusion, sucralose does not contain sucralose 6-acetate, nor have there been any human clinical trials, showing adverse effects of its use and indicated application. Sucralose has undergone one of the most extensive and thorough testing programs conducted on any food additive in history, resulting in consensus on its safety throughout the global scientific and regulatory community.

A review conducted by Science Direct, specifically on genotoxicity from artificial sweeteners, found overwhelming evidence, that sucralose is not genotoxic nor does it produce carcinogenic responses [R].

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