The search for alternatives to sugar has led many people to use artificial sweeteners like sucralose, also known as Splenda.
While there are many natural ways to give some sweetness to a cup of coffee, or even your herbal iced tea, many people do what we’re all guilty of—reach for the quickest and easiest solution.
In this case, that solution is a pack of Splenda. This artificial sweetener is about 600 times as sweet as sugar and is easily the most popular artificial sweetener on the market. I recently released a study, which found that Splenda is, well, not so splendid for the gut microbiota.
The study found that in mice, the artificial sweetener Splenda negatively impacts the intestinal microbiota and promotes Crohn’s-type disease in genetically susceptible hosts. The findings of this study suggest that consuming Splenda may be a serious risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Over a six-week period Splenda was found to worsen gut inflammation in mice with Crohn’s-like disease, but had no substantive effect on those without the condition.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease of the digestive tract, which often causes abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, bloody stools, weight loss, and fatigue. About 10-15% of humans who suffer from Crohn’s disease report that sweeteners make their symptoms worse.
My colleagues and I found that the numbers of Proteobacteria, a large phylum group of microbes, increased in the intestines of mice drinking water with Splenda. The artificial sweetener was found to stimulate the intestinal overgrowth of E. Coli (a member of the Proteobacteria group) and increased bacterial penetration into the gut wall. This was only found in Crohn’s disease-like mice.
Our findings didn’t end there. For the mice with bowel disease, we found that Splenda increased myeloperoxidase activity in the intestines. Myeloperoxidase is an enzyme in leukocytes (white blood cells) that kills a variety of microorganisms. Our conclusion is that the presence of E. Coli intensified the activity of myeloperoxidase as it tried to fight off the invader.
It is my belief that because Splenda may increase myeloperoxidase in humans with a pro-inflammatory predisposition, like Crohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel diseases, it could greatly intensify the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and IBD.
My hope is that people suffering from Crohn’s disease or other forms of IBD reconsider consuming Splenda or other products with sucralose and maltodextrin.
Additional Information on our study can be found at Science Daily Research News.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated for relevancy. Its first publish date was December 14, 2018.