Splenda Study Raises Health WorriesSep 23, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Splenda, an artificial sweetener, has been tied to a host of ills by researchers at Duke University, The New York Times reported today. According to an article published on The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health website, Splenda contributes to obesity, destroys “good” intestinal bacteria and prevents prescription drugs from being absorbed.
Splenda is a no-calorie sweetener made by McNeil Nutritionals. Splenda is 600 times as sweet as table sugar), twice as sweet as saccharin, and four times as sweet as aspartame. Unlike other artificial sweeteners, Splenda remains stable under heat and can be used in baking or in products that require a longer shelf life. Since its U.S. introduction in 1999, Splenda has overtaken Equal in the $1.5 billion artificial sweetener market, holding a 62% market share.
Splenda’s main ingredient is sucralose, which is manufactured in laboratories. While a sugar molecule is used in the process, there is no sugar contained in the end product. In 2004, the Sugar Association, and industry lobbying group, sued McNeil in federal court, alleging that the Splenda slogan, “made like sugar, so it tastes like sugar" misled consumers. The Splenda slogan has since been changed to “it’s made from sugar. It tastes like sugar. But it’s not sugar.”
The Sugar Association also funded the Duke University study of Splenda health affects. The study was conducted using male rats over a period of twelve weeks. The researchers found evidence that, in the animals studied, Splenda reduced the amount of good bacteria in the intestines by 50%, increased the pH level in the intestines, contributed to increases in body weight and affects the P-glycoprotein (P-gp) in the body in such a way that crucial health-related drugs could be rejected.
Because it was funded by the sugar industry, McNeil has dismissed the Duke study. The company also criticized the fact that the Splenda study used lab rats as test subjects. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also tested Splenda on rats before approving it for sale to the public.
One of the lead researchers of the study, Dr. Mohamed B. Abou-Donia, told The New York Times that the Sugar Association had “no input” into the study’s findings and conclusions.
One group that is taking the Duke Splenda study seriously is Citizens for Health. The public advocacy group asked the FDA to accept a petition it filed over a year ago and initiate a review of its approval of Splenda. Citizens for Health also wants the agency to require a warning label on Splenda packaging cautioning that people who take medications and/or have gastrointestinal problems avoid using Splenda.
"The new study makes it clear that Splenda can cause you to gain weight and lose the benefits of medications designed to improve and protect your health. The FDA should not continue to turn a blind eye to this health threat," James Turner, chairman of Citizens for Health said in a statement.