June 14, 2013
WASHINGTON Is sucralose, the artificial sweetener, a safe substance for human consumption?
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) long had thought so, but it has downgraded the substance to "caution" from "safe" pending the review of an unpublished study that found the sweetener caused leukemia in mice. An independent Italian lab conducted the study, CSPI, a food safety watchdog group, said.
CSPI said the compound's manufacturers had only conducted previous feeding studies in animals.
The Italian study, even if validated by peers, doesn't necessarily mean the substance poses a danger to humans.
Sucralose is better known by its brand name, Splenda, which is marketed by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, a Fort Washington, Pa.-based subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. According to McNeil Nutritionals, the safety of the substance has been documented in more than 100 studies conducted over a period of 20 years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the use of sucralose as a nonnutritive sweetener in 1998 and expanded its approval the following year, the company explains on its website.
"Currently, sucralose is permitted for use in over 80 countries and it has never been required to carry any safety information or warning statements on its labeling," McNeil Nutritionals states.
Johnson & Johnson did not immediately respond late Friday to an emailed request for comment on the Italian study and CSPI's comments.
The American Diabetes Association reportedly has endorsed sucralose. However, a study recently published in the journal Diabetics Care found the artificial sweetener can change how the body handles sugar, potentially impacting the risk for diabetes.
Our results indicate that this artificial sweetener is not inert it does have an effect," said first author M. Yanina Pepino, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, in a statement May 29. And we need to do more studies to determine whether this observation means long-term use could be harmful."
CSPI still has a fonder opinion of sucralose than the artificial sweeteners saccharin, aspartame and acesulfame potassium; it rates those substances "avoid".
"Sucralose may prove to be safer than saccharin, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium, but the forthcoming Italian study warrants careful scrutiny before we can be confident that the sweetener is safe for use in food," CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said in a statement June 12.
Although CSPI remains concerned over artificial sweeteners, it believes drinking diet soda is better than consuming sugar-sweetened soda. The latter beverage "poses the greater and demonstrable risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, gout, tooth decay, and other health problems," the watchdog group said.
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