“Genotoxic” Warning: Chemical Found in Common Sweetener Damages DNA

DNA Damage Concept Art

A recent study indicates that sucralose, a common artificial sweetener marketed as Splenda, produces a genotoxic compound called sucralose-6-acetate when metabolized, which can break up DNA. Trace amounts of sucralose-6-acetate were also found in the sweetener itself.

Sucralose, a widely used artificial sweetener, produces a DNA-breaking compound, sucralose-6-acetate, during digestion, according to a recent study. This compound, also found in trace amounts in the sweetener itself, exceeds safe toxicological thresholds and can cause genotoxicity and “leaky gut.”

A new study finds a chemical formed when we digest a widely used sweetener is “genotoxic,” meaning it breaks up DNA. The chemical is also found in trace amounts in the sweetener itself, and the finding raises questions about how the sweetener may contribute to health problems.

At issue is sucralose, a widely used artificial sweetener sold under the trade name Splenda®. Previous work by the same research team established that several fat-soluble compounds are produced in the gut after sucralose ingestion. One of these compounds is sucralose-6-acetate.

“Our new work establishes that sucralose-6-acetate is genotoxic,” says Susan Schiffman, corresponding author of the study and an adjunct professor in the joint department of biomedical engineering at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We also found that trace amounts of sucralose-6-acetate can be found in off-the-shelf sucralose, even before it is consumed and metabolized.

“To put this in context, the European Food Safety Authority has a threshold of toxicological concern for all genotoxic substances of 0.15 micrograms per person per day,” Schiffman says. “Our work suggests that the trace amounts of sucralose-6-acetate in a single, daily sucralose-sweetened drink exceed that threshold. And that’s not even accounting for the amount of sucralose-6-acetate produced as metabolites after people consume sucralose.”

For the study, researchers conducted a series of in vitro experiments exposing human blood cells to sucralose-6-acetate and monitoring for markers of genotoxicity.

“In short, we found that sucralose-6-acetate is genotoxic, and that it effectively broke up DNA in cells that were exposed to the chemical,” Schiffman says.

The researchers also conducted in vitro tests that exposed human gut tissues to sucralose-6-acetate.

“Other studies have found that sucralose can adversely affect gut health, so we wanted to see what might be happening there,” Schiffman says. “When we exposed sucralose and sucralose-6-acetate to gut epithelial tissues – the tissue that lines your gut wall – we found that both chemicals cause ‘leaky gut.’ Basically, they make the wall of the gut more permeable. The chemicals damage the ‘tight junctions,’ or interfaces, where cells in the gut wall connect to each other.

“A leaky gut is problematic, because it means that things that would normally be flushed out of the body in feces are instead leaking out of the gut and being absorbed into the bloodstream.”

The researchers also looked at the genetic activity of the gut cells to see how they responded to the presence of sucralose-6-acetate.

“We found that gut cells exposed to sucralose-6-acetate had increased activity in genes related to oxidative stress, inflammation, and carcinogenicity,” Schiffman says.

“This work raises a host of concerns about the potential health effects associated with sucralose and its metabolites. It’s time to revisit the safety and regulatory status of sucralose, because the evidence is mounting that it carries significant risks. If nothing else, I encourage people to avoid products containing sucralose. It’s something you should not be eating.”

The paper, “Toxicological and pharmacokinetic properties of sucralose-6-acetate and its parent sucralose: in vitro screening assays,” is published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B.

Reference: “Toxicological and pharmacokinetic properties of sucralose-6-acetate and its parent sucralose: in vitro screening assays” by Susan S. Schiffman, Elizabeth H. Scholl, Terrence S. Furey and H. Troy Nagle, 29 May 2023, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B.
DOI: 10.1080/10937404.2023.2213903

The paper was co-authored by Troy Nagle, Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at NC State and UNC and Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC State; Terrence Furey, professor of genetics and biology at UNC; and Elizabeth Scholl, a former researcher at NC State who is currently at Sciome LLC.

The authors have no conflicts of interest. The research was done with support from the Engineering Foundation at NC State.

37 Comments on "“Genotoxic” Warning: Chemical Found in Common Sweetener Damages DNA"

  1. What can I take for leaky gut how can I reverse it

  2. Will the FDA be reversing their approval for sucralose to be added in foods? This sounds terrible to be available for purchase by unknowing consumers who think they are buying a “safe” alternative to sugar.

    • Follow the money.
      The FDA has rarely reversed approval, unless pressured to do so by external influences (WHO, UN, EU).
      My wife is diabetic and we discovered sucralose is a multi-billion dollar industry. Too many power people will be hurt if it’s pulled.

      • Nonsense. Look at my comment below. In vitro studies are an incredibly low standard of evidence. If we banned things based only on in vitro studies, many things we use widely considered safe would get banned. You can’t ban chocolate because a study found it killed a dog… Same applies to in vitro studies not done on humans. Even studies done on humans can have errors and biases.

        • I agree with you! Just as we can’t ban all peanuts because of a few people with allergies. However, as ith all things new, we do need a cautious approach. We are far too quick as a people to make a chemical discovery and then throw it in the food chain…. again, follow the money 🙂

        • Vanessa Hooper | June 9, 2023 at 10:51 am | Reply

          So we should never do into testing? I understand scientific bias, I can even believe this is just an intro level study, but you have to start somewhere. I grew up in the 80s with Saccharin, also found to be a carcinogen. It should be pulled. We now know there’s a link between NutraSweet and Alzheimer’s. Artificial sweeteners are terrible, we as consumers should learn there are no shortcuts, and stop using so much sweeteners natural & artificial. You are also only addressing the genotoxic properties, why not the leaky gut? And why are you afraid to use your own name?

        • You staked your entire claim of nonsense and scientific illiteracy, yet it appears your reading comprehension is sorely absent. The key sentence in this article is “ALSO conducted in vitro” as in they conducted many tests only one of which was in virto, and that one was to test an addendum not the main hypothesis. Did you miss the part where the genotoxic compound is extant in the sweetener off the shelf? Not just after metabolizing. This research addressed several components around sucralose and only ONE of the vehicles for study was in vitro. How much money are you making denigrating articles and commenters?

  3. I used it, but for less than a year. When it started to make my tongue very irritated, and blister, I decided it just couldn’t be any good. Went to stevia, but was concerned about all the other things put in the big brand formulations. So I switched to one I found with no additives. That is what I use now. Though, the last few months I have been trying to just drink more water and less sweetened drinks. Can’t honestly say if that has made any difference. But drinking more water makes water taste better.

  4. How are sweeteners like this passed by the FDA and distributed widely to children and adults alike for years before an article like this comes out letting us know the FDA doesn’t care about our long term health or approving products that are actually safe for long term use. The things that aren’t approved by the FDA that you do a little personal research on seem safer than the products the FDA runs studies on. The FDA is illegitimate to me at this point. I don’t trust their approval. I’ll trust my Google research over their profit based study results. What a sad excuse for an administration.

    • Lol. A great comment to show exactly why we need to be teaching science in schools. You clearly haven’t done any homework on how things get approved, and the difference between good and bad studies.

  5. Makes me wonder if marked increase in colon cancer among younger adults is somehow related? https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2020/colorectal-cancer-rising-younger-adults

  6. Clearly we are all the FDA’s ginny pigs or shall I say the cow’s of the pastures well however you want to be categorized …where and when did any of us animals I mean humans sign up for such a degree of failure and blatant disregard for Humanity… With such wealth in USA is there anyone who might just want to challenge the FDA and pioneer some common sense to there decisions for approval on items that are harming us. I would be interested ìn 15 minutes with the big wigs…For now I ask the good lord above for his great works to be done….

    • Challenge the FDA? That requires better evidence than what this study provides. Please see the hierarchy of evidence. You cannot challenge decades of meta analyses, systematic reviews, randomized controlled trials, etc… With a single in vitro study. That’s not how science works.

  7. Thoth al Khem | June 4, 2023 at 5:25 pm | Reply

    Sugar itself is a very addictive toxic sweet substance. Sucralosa has one molecule of chlorine attached to every molecule of sugar. That’s what this article is about. The aspartame patent proves Aspartame is made from the feces of equal I bacteria. Aspartame bought as Diet Coke has killed two of my best friends going back to the seventies given others diabetes very fast and has given a good friend of mine muscular sclerosis. There’s poison in your toothpaste and tap water America and it says poison right on the back of your toothpaste. Please quit being so stupid. Look what you’ve allowed to happen to the once great United States

    • Oh wow… Bless your little heart. If you truly believe diet coke killed somebody who wasn’t drinking gallons and gallons of the stuff by the hour, there’s simply no helping you. Enjoy your rotting teeth, too.

      • What made you write such a comment?
        What expectations did you have by using such a language?
        Writing so many comments seems to have taken a toll on ‘good’ behavior. Will you, please, consider my advice (for free, ofcourse): stop writing comments from the very moment you notice any kind of negativity.

        • Sara,,,,GET OF THE SODIUM FLUORIDE……..2 of my friends are DEAD. ASPARTAME PATENT SHOW IT IS MADE FROM E.coli Bacteria you idiot. I also do NOT drink any sugary drinks as SUGAR is the only food CANCER EATS….GOD DAMN you are stupid also. AND RUDE so go read the back of your toothpaste tube dummy…says poison…..eat it all up as it is in your tap water making you americans IDIOTS. FLUORIDE LOWERS IQ dummy….LMAO

      • 2 of my friends are DEAD. ASPARTAME PATENT SHOW IT IS MADE FROM E.coli Bacteria you idiot. I also do NOT drink any sugary drinks as SUGAR is the only food CANCER EATS….GIOD DAMN you are stupid. AND RUDE so go read the back of your toothpaste tube dummy…says poison…..eat it all up as it is in your tap water making you americans IDIOTS.

  8. I’ve been avoiding sucralose anyways because it makes me break out with a rash. Scary stuff.

    • This means you have an allergy to it. You can develop an allergy to almost anything. Doesn’t mean it’s unsafe for everyone.

  9. Michel Jeisel | June 4, 2023 at 8:16 pm | Reply

    It’s an in vitro study, it doesn’t show the same results when studied in humans. People who don’t understand studies like this should not jump to crazy conclusions that aren’t relative. It’s not scary, or unsafe in any way. Stop trying to scare people and stop trying to be scared.

  10. Elaine Elder | June 4, 2023 at 9:10 pm | Reply

    Artificial sweeteners give me migraine headaches

  11. More fearmongering nonsense from Scientifically illiterate journalists. The study mentioned is only an in-vitro study – it is considered one of the lowest standards of evidence. How something interacts with cells in a petrie dish isn’t indicative of how something interacts with our bodies and organ systems.

  12. Alice Alexander | June 5, 2023 at 6:12 am | Reply

    Kudos! I used to try to reason with people the way you’re doing, but I gave up:-)

  13. There’s a natural alternative called monk sugar made from a fruit. I suggest if you can find a natural option found in nature, try that first and leave human chemistry behind.

  14. AlwaysTrustButVerify | June 5, 2023 at 7:17 pm | Reply

    Only idiots and fools believe any information that you see on the net blindly. In self defense it is absolutely necessary that you trust but verify and and all information propagated by doom forecasters, which most news publisher are members. If you search for peer reviews of sucralose genotoxicty you will find the “National Institute of Health” which references many many test that proves that sucralose even if taken many times more than possible has not evidence of genotoxicty. Wake up people, and stop supporting this propagation of $#!+ !!!!

  15. Really artificially synthesized food additives are destructive to living things? Well that’s what greedy soulless conglomerate corporations will feed you. While the corrupt government and food and drug administrations take money illegally so the can go ahead and poison us all while they get filthy rich and devalue our lives and money with the only obligations they uphold to their shareholders. I hope hades is real and the absolution of suffering for those monsters.

  16. Susan Schiffman is a “scientist” who is always chasing a headline. I’m a scientist. I have been going through her “paper” and identified (about 1/3 through) at least 10 highly questionable statements and conclusions. One thing to keep in mind is that the data she are refuting were all obtained using humans or animals consuming the product. All of her evidence is in vitro – or test tube lab results. The one standard test reported is the Ames test, which has been used for years to establish mutagenicity. Here is the conclusion: “These observations indicate that although sucralose-6-acetate was genotoxic in both the MultiFlow and MN test, DNA damaged initiated by sucralose-6-acetate may not lead to permanent alterations in further generations of cells because it is not mutagenic”. So, yeah, I can see something but it probably means nothing. The original studies followed both humans as well as animal models over long terms with high doses. Th equality of the research has been affirmed many times over by independent, reputable scientists. I am totally open to finding out things that we can analyze for today that you simply couldn’t analyze for (e.g. no one was talking about the microbiome in the 1980’s) but it should be real scientist. Having said all of that, the best diet is still one of whole foods from things that are grown.

  17. Published and shared only after I read thru all and signed by my right hand!

  18. I have sollution dont puy substitutes on food based products or chemicals that dont belong .end of story .fk the coporations why because ther f***ing us over our health .and the fda is useles on proteng life .

  19. No all greasy lawyers will start running to open cases. However, the producers surely know this and should be sued…also the FDA , as corruption as they are should be held responsible as they are inly puppies of the industry anyway. .

  20. I used to drink 1 can of diet soda a day. I could not figure out why I was having migraine headaches. My doctor said to stay away from sweeteners. If I have to have something sweet to have something that has regular sugar. I no longer eat or drink anything sweet. Unless I make it and I know how much sugar I am putting in it. People say you can’t buy anything without sugar. I don’t buy food. I grow it and raise my own food. So no I don’t buy food anymore. I make my own drinks. I love tea. I grow my own herbs to make herbal tea. I add no sugar or sweeteners. It’s easy to live a sustainable life. My mom was diabetic. She died. She was drinking way to much diet cokes. Thinking that diet anything was good for her. But all it did was make her want more. Anything sweeteners is bad for a person.

  21. I like this discussion, because that is what brings Science forward. There should be some real good standards for checking all the claims regarding bad health outcomes for artificial sweeteners and sucralose in particular. Anecdotal evidence does not show cause and effect relations. There are so many studies saying table sugar is bad leading to cognitive decline and faster aging. Even though there are many studies regarding artificial sweeteners looking into the same area, but there have not been any conclusive results. How valuable are in vitro results? Shouldn’t there be a follow-up confirmatory study and maybe even take this study a step further?

  22. Ummm, this says nothing about how consuming it is bad. But the title suggests that it does. If I were a company that made this stuff I’d sue. This seems intentionally misleading.

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