Sucralose, which is sold to consumers as Splenda, is usually promoted as an artificial, but healthy sweetener in lieu of refined white sugar. But a new study suggests that the sweetener may increase the risk of cancer, particularly leukemia.
A team of researchers from Italy discovered that Splenda consumption in mice made them more susceptible to leukemia and other forms of cancer. This corroborates earlier studies that had come up with similar findings.
Splenda was first introduced in the market as an alternative sweetener to sugar, as well as other artificial sweetening agents that had been proven to cause health problems. The sweetener’s commercial manufacturer had cited studies that had shown Splenda consumption is not a risk factor for cancer, and it had thusly been considered as a “safe” product for several years. But in 2013, watchdog groups cited a study from the Ramazzini Institute in downgrading Splenda to “caution.” Interestingly, Ramazzini is the same educational institution behind the new study.
The Ramazzini team fed a total of 457 male mice and 396 female mice with different quantities of sucralose, from 12 days of gestation through the time of their death. Over the study period, the researchers found higher incidence rates of malignant cancer in the male mice who had higher intake of Splenda as compared to the other test rodents. Leukemia incidence was also substantially higher in the male mice who consumed 2,000 ppm and 16,000 ppm of sucralose.
“These findings do not support previous data that sucralose is biologically inert,” said the researchers in a statement accompanying the study. “More studies are necessary to show the safety of sucralose, including new and more adequate carcinogenic bioassay on rats. Considering that millions of people are likely exposed, follow-up studies are urgent.”
Splenda, in its defense, released its own statement defending its product and trying to “set the record straight.” The statement said that the findings from Italy were based on only one study involving mice, and “does not reflect the collective body of scientific evidence proving the safety of sucralose.” Splenda added that government regulators and food safety authorities have debunked previous Ramazzini studies on sucralose, due to their “unconventional design” and their failure to comply with international safety assessment standards.
The new Ramazzini study was published earlier this week in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.