Most of us know that too much sugar in our diets leads to all sorts of health problems — yet we’ve become accustomed to a certain amount of sweetness in what we eat and drink.
In our quest to limit our sugar intake, we turn to artificial sweeteners and, naturally, we want to choose sweeteners that are safe.
The good news is that over a hundred studies have been conducted on the effects of Splenda on humans and animals. Based on the results of these studies, it’s safe to say that there’s no known link between Splenda and cancer.
Like most dietary choices, however, there are benefits and risks to using Splenda, including some unresolved questions about the connection between Splenda, inflammation, and cancer risks.
It’s important to consider the bigger picture as you think about what’s best in your own diet, so let’s take a look at how using Splenda may affect your health.
Splenda has been ranked the most popular sugar substitute on the market. The generic name for Splenda is sucralose. Its sweetness is highly concentrated — about 600 times sweeter than white table sugar. In part because it is derived from sugar, Splenda may seem like a more “natural” option.
Sucralose is made by removing three hydrogen-oxygen bonds from ordinary sugar (sucrose) and replacing them with chlorine molecules.
That’s where some of the concern about cancer may have originated: Studies have shown that chlorine in drinking water is associated with a
These studies didn’t prove that chlorine caused cancer on its own. Rather, they showed there was a higher risk for colon and bladder cancers when chlorine interacted with certain contaminants in drinking water.
However, the chlorine in sucralose isn’t in a form or an amount that is considered dangerous to humans.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for reviewing all the research and analyzing the risks for ingredients in foods, food additives, cosmetics, and medications.
When the FDA evaluated sucralose, it reviewed over 110 studies involving both animals and humans to see whether sucralose could be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). None of those studies showed a connection between sucralose and cancer.
After thoroughly examining sucralose and all of the substances it turns into when your body breaks it down, the FDA declared it to be safe for people. That decision was reached in 1998.
Sucralose does not appear on the National Toxicology Program’s
list of carcinogens.
People can get cancer through exposure to viruses like HIV and human papilloma virus (HPV), chemicals, and even medical treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. Some people are genetically more prone to getting cancer than other people.
Carcinogens can work in different ways. Some carcinogens damage your cells directly, changing their DNA and making them grow at really fast rates. Those damaged cells can form tumors that invade other areas of the body and disrupt normal body functions.
Other carcinogens cause cancer indirectly, by creating conditions in your body where cancer is more likely to thrive. A carcinogen could create chronic inflammation, for example, and inflammation can lead to cancer.
Usually it takes more than one exposure to a carcinogen for cancer to develop. It might not show up for a long time after an exposure to a carcinogen has taken place.
When your body is stressed, injured, or sick, part of the natural healing process is a period of inflammation. In a healthy body, inflammation is temporary. It subsides when you recover from the illness or your injury has healed.
Sometimes inflammation doesn’t go away when it should. This is called chronic inflammation, and it can lead to cancer.
Some studies have indicated that sucralose may be connected to chronic inflammation. At least one study showed that sucralose made inflammation worse in mice with Crohn’s disease. But it did not have the same effect on mice that did not have Crohn’s.
Although there’s a link between sucralose and inflammation, right now researchers do not think the link is strong enough to suggest that eating and drinking sucralose actually causes cancer.
Other studies show that when sucralose is heated with oils or in
It’s important to note that researchers
In fact, doctors at Mayo Clinic do not warn people to avoid sucralose. They suggest that you use it, and all artificial sweeteners, in moderation.
There’s no evidence that Splenda (sucralose) causes cancer. Some research suggests it can cause inflammation, particularly in your bowel. Chronic inflammation of the bowels is a risk factor for some types of cancer.
Sucralose also breaks down at high temperatures, and some of the byproducts of the breakdown are carcinogenic. So far, researchers don’t think that either the inflammation or cooking byproducts pose a serious cancer risk to humans.
The key here, as with so many other dietary choices, is to consume Splenda in moderation.