You stay away from the cookie jar, eat overnight oats on the reg, and wouldn’t dare down one of those massive triple-decker burgers. But despite your best efforts to be the picture of health, sometimes a hankering for an iced coffee with a packet Splenda is too hard to ignore. Not a huge deal; it's not like the stuff can kill you, right? Frankly, at this point, it’s hard to know for certain. However, a new animal study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health tries to shed some additional light on the matter.
To learn more about the effects of the popular sweetener, researchers divided newborn mice into 10 groups and added sucralose (the generic name for Splenda) to their feed at varying concentrations. Over the course of their lifespan, the male mice had significant dose-related incidences of cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. Simply put, the mice that consumed the most Splenda were the most likely to get cancer. Strangely enough, though, they found that the female mice had a dose-related decrease in cancer. While 65 percent of female mice from the control group were found to have cancerous tumors, cancer rates among those exposed to the highest dose of sucralose hovered around 59 percent. Interesting, right?
Though these study results are a bit scattered, the data was convincing enough that the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)—a nutrition advocacy group that assesses the safety of food additives—has now formally recommended that consumers avoid the popular sweetener. Previously, CSPI considered the additive to be "safe." As a result, many media outlets have splashed scary headlines that basically say "Splenda = Death" all over the web. But if you really dig into the data, it’s clear that’s not the full story.
Even though it’s a bit fuzzy how Splenda affects cancer rates in humans, we can’t forget that prior studies have shown that sucralose causes dips and spikes in blood sugar that can lead to some serious sugar cravings. Additional reports on artificial sweeteners have shown that those who consume the stuff are more apt to have excess belly fat—the type of fat associated with heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Eek!
Our advice: Next time you sit down to a cup of tea, consider using a touch of honey in lieu of Splenda. Or slowly stop adding it by only adding half a packet, then a quarter packet, etc. Craving a sweet drink? Skip the sucralose-spiked Diet Pepsi and whip up a batch of detox water instead.