In my discussion last week on the health risk from sweetened beverages I may have been too easy on artificial sweeteners as found in diet sodas.
In February of this year the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) downgraded the artificial sweetener sucralose from “Caution” to “Avoid”. It had previously downgraded it from “Safe” in 2013. This change was in response to the January 2016 publication (in Int. J. Occ. Env. Health) of a study from the Ramazzini Institute, a highly respected independent laboratory in Italy.
The study exposed mice to five levels of sucralose to evaluate possible carcinogenic (cancer causing) effects. Previous industry-funded long-term studies on mice and rats had failed to find significant carcinogenicity. This time the researchers found a significant dose-related occurrence of both malignant tumors and hematopoietic neoplasias (malignant and premalignant blood cell growth, including lymphomas and leukemia) in male mice.
This doesn’t prove that sucralose is unsafe for humans or that it is safe for females. What it does mean is that the previous assurances of industry and government that sucralose is safe are called into question. Here is the researchers’ conclusions from the abstract:
These findings do not support previous data that sucralose is biologically inert. 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.CSPI explained that this study found carcinogenic effects when the previous funded studies had not because it tested more animals, started exposure at the fetal rather than adolescent stage, and was longer in duration.
Other known adverse health effects of sucralose include reduction in beneficial colon bacteria, increased colon pH (making it too alkaline), and increased levels of several intestinal membrane transporters which can interfere with oral medications.
CSPI does caution that the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease from excess sugar, as in regular soda, outweighs the risk of cancer from artificial sweeteners, so that diet soda is safer than regular soda. I still maintain that it’s best to avoid both.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.