Widely used artificial sweetener sucralose found to damage DNA, say US researchers
"I encourage people to avoid products containing sucralose. It's something you should not be eating," said Susan Schiffman, one of the authors of the study.
NEW DELHI: Sucralose, a widely used artificial sweetener, has been found to cause DNA damage, raising questions about how it may contribute to causing health problems.
The study by researchers from North Carolina State University in the US found that sucralose-6-acetate, one of the several fat-soluble compounds produced in the gut following sucralose ingestion, was "genotoxic", meaning it breaks up the DNA.
"We also found that trace amounts of sucralose-6-acetate can be found in off-the-shelf sucralose, even before it is consumed and metabolised. Our work suggests that 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," said Susan Schiffman, corresponding author of the study and an adjunct professor in the joint department of biomedical engineering at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In this study, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, the researchers exposed human blood cells to sucralose-6-acetate and monitored for markers of genotoxicity, through in vitro experiments.
"In short, we found that sucralose-6-acetate is genotoxic, and that it effectively broke up DNA in cells that were exposed to the chemical," said Schiffman.
The researchers also conducted tests exposing human gut tissues to sucralose-6-acetate.
Schiffman said that exposing the gut wall-lining tissue to sucralose and sucralose-6-acetate caused a 'leaky gut'.
"Basically, they make the wall of the gut more permeable," said Schiffman.
The chemicals were found to damage the 'tight junctions', or interfaces, where cells in the gut wall connected to each other.
"A leaky gut is problematic, because it means that things that would normally be flushed out of the body in feces are instead leaking out of the gut and being absorbed into the bloodstream," said Schiffman.
The researchers also found an increased activity in the gut cells' genes related to oxidative stress, inflammation and carcinogenicity, upon exposure to sucralose-6-acetate.
"This work raises a host of concerns about the potential health effects associated with sucralose and its metabolites. 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," said Schiffman.