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Splenda Study Finds the Sweetener Alters Gut Microflora

In a recent study performed by Duke University on the artificial sweetener Splenda, research suggests that the sweetener causes adverse reactions to intestinal functions in rats.

Over a 12 week period, rats were given approved doses of Splenda, which is comprised of the high-potency artificial sweetener sucralose. Their fecal samples were collected weekly and tested for any changes. Test results showed several adverse reactions including:

  • the amount of good bacteria in the intestines was reduced
  • the pH level in the intestines increased
  • the sweetener interfered with the absorption of certain medications

The study went on to show that Splenda alters the gut microflora. This is significant because “gut microorganisms refer to beneficial bacteria that live (are alive!) in the intestines,” says our resident registered dietitian Mary Hartley, RD, MPH.

Hartley goes on to say that gut microorganisms are important to health because they carry out the following functions in our body:

  • digest food to make it more absorbable
  • synthesize nutrients as the food is digested
  • confer primary immunity and other health benefits all throughout the body

Although this study was performed on rats, the results are consistent with the idea that humans would show similar effects. However, Hartley believes that “Splenda has been deemed safe by the FDA, but rat studies such as these raise questions about the safety of Splenda. Still, in all studies, the methodology and conclusions must be questioned, and it’s also important to look at the funding source for the research. An expert panel review of a similar study by this researcher found that the ‘conclusions were not consistent with published literature and not supported by the data presented.’ The study results might not be conclusive in rats, let alone in humans. In my opinion, harm to humans has not been shown.”

January 13th, 2012

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