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No Calorie Sweetener Splenda Linked to Leukemia

A new study has cast a large shadow on the no calorie sweetener Splenda, saying that it has been linked to leukemia and other cancers, at least in animals. Since this artificial sweetener is present in so many foods, especially those used by people who are trying to lose weight, is this latest information enough to get you to stop using Splenda?


This is not the first time that Splenda, which is the brand name of the artificial sweetener sucralose, has been linked to leukemia. In fact, the status of the sweetener was changed from “safe” to “caution” in 2013 by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) after the Ramazzini Institute, which also conducted the latest study, found a link between leukemia and sucralose in mice.

In that study, investigators at the Ramazzini Institute fed 843 mice varying doses of sucralose from the time they were fetuses until they died. When the animals were examined, the experts found that the more sucralose the animals consumed, the higher their risk of leukemia.

New Splenda study linked to leukemia
In the latest study, five groups of male mice (457) and five groups of female mice (396) had sucralose added to their food from 12 days of gestation until they died. The investigators used varied concentrations of the sweetener in different groups of mice, ranging from 0 ppm (parts per million) to 500, 2,000, 8,000, and 16,000 ppm.

The researchers discovered:

  • An overall increased rate of malignant cancer among the male mice as the amount of Splenda in their diet increased
  • Substantially higher incidence of leukemia in male mice when sucralose dose levels reached 2,000 to 16,000 parts per million (ppm).

The authors concluded that previous reports saying sucralose is “biologically inert” (i.e., has no biological impact on the body) is not supported by their findings. They emphasized that “considering that millions of people are likely exposed, follow-up studies are urgent.”

A report in a New Hampshire online newspaper noted that the CSPI said that a six-year-old child who weighed 45 pounds would exceed the limit of sucralose per day set by the Food and Drug Administration if he or she drank two or three 12-ounce sodas daily. Diet sodas with sucralose typically contain 40 to 60 milligrams of the artificial sweetener.

Other reasons to question Splenda use
Splenda is about 600 times sweeter than table sugar, and about three times as well as aspartame. When you consume foods and beverages with artificial sweeteners, such intenseness can change the way you taste food.

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Harvard University researchers have pointed out that as you continue to consume sucralose and other artificial sweeteners over time, you can begin to crave naturally sweet foods such as whole fruits less and increase your use of artificial sweeteners. This change in your taste can actually lead to weight gain.

That’s because when your body senses you are eating something sweet, the pancreas releases insulin, a hormone involved in accumulating body fat, and chemicals are dispatched to the brain. When this occurs, the brain is uncertain whether it is receiving calories (and you’re not, especially if you are drinking a diet soda). The process can make you feel hungrier, which can lead to eating more and weight gain.

On the issue of Splenda being biologically inert, a team of researchers at the University of North Carolina reported that this is not true. In a 2013 article, they pointed out that “cooking with sucralose at high temperatures was reported to generate chloropropanols, a potentially toxic class of compounds” and that both human and animal studies have shown that sucralose may alter levels of glucose and insulin.

Would you like two more reasons to reconsider using Splenda?

  • The University of North Carolina researchers also reported that sucralose changes the quality and amount of beneficial microorganisms in your gut by as much as 50 percent. That’s bad for several reasons, including the fact that changes in bacterial populations in the gut is associated with obesity and weight gain.
  • Sucralose also can limit the absorption of certain prescription medications, such as those used to treat cancer and heart disease. The artificial sweetener may make those drugs less effective.

Are you still using Splenda and other artificial sweeteners?
Losing weight can be a challenge, and it’s understandable to want to “save” calories by consuming foods and beverages that contain artificial sweeteners. However, you may be risking your health and especially the health of children, who often begin drinking diet sodas and eating foods with artificial sweeteners at a young age.

Instead of Splenda and other artificial sweeteners, you might consider trying the natural herbal sweetener stevia (buy pure products, not ones with additives) or monk fruit sweetener. Switching from diet beverages to sparkling water with fresh lemon, lime, or mint or infused water are options for dieters and everyone.

Also read: Advantame sweetener, friend or foe?
Apple cinnamon water, energy booster or waste of time?
No calorie sweeteners and diabetes, good idea or bad?

Image courtesy of PhotoBucket

Dr. Oz. Artificial sweeteners and other food substitutes dangerous to your health?
Harvard Health Publications. Artificial sweeteners, sugar free but at what cost?
NH Voice. Italian research links Splenda with leukemia risk while manufacturer denies any link
Schiffman SS, Rother KI. Sucralose, a synthetic organochlorine sweetener: overview of biological issues. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Part B, Critical Reviews 2013; 16(7): 399-451
Soffritti M et al. Sucralose administered in feed, beginning prenatally through lifespan, induces hematopoietic neoplasias in male swiss mice. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health 2016 Jan 29 published online