Artificial sweeteners have been on the market for more than half a century, offering people a calorie-free, low-carbohydrate alternative to sugar. Sucralose is one of the most popular of these low-calorie sweeteners.
Although approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe, sucralose has faced some controversy for its potential link with cancer. Scientists and health experts have weighed in on both sides of the argument, with some touting the safety of the substance while others express concern over its potential impacts.
In this blog post, we will delve into the science of sucralose, separating fact from fiction and finally answer the question: Is there a link between sucralose and cancer? Can sucralose cause cancer? If sucralose is linked to cancer, how high is your risk?
What is Sucralose?
Sucralose is a synthetic sweetener discovered in 1976 and FDA approved in 1998. It is made by replacing three hydroxyl groups in sucrose or table sugar with three chlorine atoms. This chemical alteration makes sucralose 600 times sweeter than sucrose and adds zero calories to food and beverages. Sucralose is also used in baking, as it is heat-stable and can withstand high temperatures without degrading.
Many animal and human studies have been conducted to evaluate the safety of sucralose. The National Cancer Institute, the World Health Organization, and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have reviewed all available data and concluded that sucralose is safe for human consumption. They have set an acceptable daily intake of up to 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, which is far above the usual daily intake of food and beverages.
But then again, the same organizations closed their eyes to the dangers of pesticides and tobacco smoking.
5 Surprising Places Where Sucralose Can Be Found
While sucralose is most commonly found in products like diet soda, protein powder, and sugar-free chewing gum, sucralose can be found in many other unexpected places. In this blog post, we’ll explore 5 surprising places where sucralose can be found.
Dairy products and sucralose additive
If you’re lactose intolerant or simply trying to cut down on dairy, you may be opting for dairy-free products instead. However, many dairy-free products contain sucralose as a sweetener. So, check the labels on your almond milk, coconut milk, and other dairy-free products before purchasing.
Medications containing sucralose
If you’re taking medications, you may be surprised to learn that sucralose can be found in some liquid medicines. This is particularly true for children’s medications, as sucralose can mask bitter flavors and make the medication more palatable. Always read the label and check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any concerns.
Sucralose in salad dressings
If you’re trying to make healthier choices and opting for salads, watch out for sucralose in the dressing. Many low-fat or reduced-calorie salad dressings contain this artificial sweetener as a way to make them taste better.
Sucralose in peanut butter
Peanut butter is a popular food item that is loved by many. However, some brands of peanut butter contain sucralose as a way to make them taste sweeter. If you’re trying to avoid artificial sweeteners, be sure to check the labels on your favorite peanut butter brand.
Baked goods and sucralose
Did you know that many baked goods, such as muffins and cakes, can contain sucralose? This is often done to reduce the calorie count of baked goods, as sugar is a major source of calories in baked goods. Always check the ingredient list before purchasing any baked goods, and look for alternatives that use natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.
As you can see, sucralose can be found in many unexpected places, making it important to always check the labels of the food products you’re purchasing. While sucralose is generally considered safe, some people may experience digestive issues or other side effects after consuming it.
By being aware of the potential sources of sucralose, you can make more informed choices about the foods you’re eating and the products you’re using.
Is There a Link Between Sucralose and Cancer?
To start with, what is sucralose and how is it made? Sucralose is manufactured from sugar, chemically altering it to create a compound that is hundreds of times sweeter. It is a highly stable compound that can withstand high temperatures, making it ideal for use in baked goods and diet drinks.
Advocates of sucralose say that the body cannot digest it, which means it passes straight through the digestive system without leaving an impact. Some concerns have arisen about environmental factors and sucralose intake, however, since water treatment plants struggle to effectively remove the substance from wastewater.
Can Sucralose Cause Cancer?
So, what about the supposed link between sucralose and cancer? Several studies have been conducted on this topic, and the majority of them have found no direct link between sucralose and cancer. However, studies conducted on rats and mice found that consuming sucralose at high doses over a long period of time led to an increased risk of various cancers.
Research conducted in 2022 has shown that sucralose is linked to cancer. Here’s a quote:
In this large cohort study, artificial sweeteners (especially aspartame and acesulfame-K), which are used in many food and beverage brands worldwide, were associated with increased cancer risk. These findings provide important and novel insights for the ongoing re-evaluation of food additive sweeteners by the European Food Safety Authority and other health agencies globally.
Recent Science on Sucralose and Cancer Link
A study conducted in 2021 on rats revealed that exposure to sucralose led to an increased risk of developing cancer. In this study, the rats were exposed to varying amounts of sucralose, and it was found that those exposed to higher doses had a higher chance of developing malignant tumors. The study authors concluded that their findings should raise awareness of the potential risks associated with consuming sucralose.
Sucralose Classified as a Possible Carcinogen in 2022
While there has been no scientific consensus on the effects of sucralose consumption, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified sucralose as a possible carcinogen in 2022. This classification was based on animal studies that showed increased rates of cancer development in rats exposed to sucralose. While this classification does not provide concrete proof of the carcinogenic effects of sucralose, it does suggest that sucralose may have the potential to cause cancer.
Lawsuits Against Use of Sucralose in Food
Furthermore, several lawsuits have been filed in recent years against companies that produced products containing sucralose, claiming that the sweetener caused cancer. One of these lawsuits involves the popular brand Splenda, whose products contain sucralose.
Although these lawsuits have yet to be resolved, they have caused many individuals to question the safety of consuming products containing sucralose.
Current Legislation on Sucralose and Cancer Link
Despite these concerns about the potential carcinogenic effect of consuming sucralose, it is important to note that government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not yet classified sucralose as a carcinogen. The FDA has approved sucralose as safe for general use, indicating that it can be used safely as a sugar substitute.
However, the FDA has set an acceptable daily intake (ADI) of sucralose, which means that the average person should not consume more than a certain amount of sucralose each day.
Can Sucralose Cause Cancer: What Sucralose Proponents Say
To defend the use of sucralose, some experts invite to consider the context of these studies. The animals in the studies were administered far higher doses of sucralose than any human would consume.
For example, a person drinking 20 cans of diet soda per day would still not reach the same levels of sucralose intake as the animals in these studies. Additionally, the studies failed to show that sucralose caused cancer, only that the incidence of tumors was higher.
Sucralose and Cancer: Proven DNA Damage
In addition to these animal studies, some concerns have been raised about the potential for sucralose to cause DNA damage, which can lead to cancer. However, it’s important to note that many substances, including everyday foods, can cause DNA damage; the key is to understand the extent of that damage and whether or not it is harmful.
And the truth is, the amount of sucralose needed to cause DNA damage is far greater than any person would ordinarily consume.
Final Thoughts: Is Sucralose Linked to Cancer?
In conclusion, there is currently no solid scientific evidence to suggest that sucralose causes cancer in humans. While animal studies have indicated a link between the substance and certain types of cancer, the amount of sucralose used in these studies is many times greater than the amount typically consumed by humans.
Furthermore, the negative effects observed in these studies may not directly translate to the human population. Sucralose is approved by the FDA as safe for use in food and drinks, making it a viable alternative to sugar for those looking to cut carbohydrates and calories from their diet.
However, as with any dietary supplement, it’s important to consume sucralose in moderation and speak to a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about its impact on your health.