“Sugar-free” artificial sweeteners might not be a healthier alternative to sugar after all. On the contrary, it can trigger inflammation and worsen symptoms of Crohn’s disease, a recent animal study showed.
Published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, it revealed that Splenda, a type of zero-calorie artificial sweetener, exacerbated gut inflammation in mice with Crohn’s disease. Splenda also increased the number of proteobacteria in the gut, a large group of pathogenic microbes that include Escherichia coli (E. coli). Splenda was also shown to increase bacterial penetration into the gut wall, which led to further infection and intestinal inflammation.
What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is a type of bowel disease marked by chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Unlike most chronic diseases that are linked to age, Crohn’s disease is heavily influenced by diet and lifestyle habits.
Its exact cause remains unknown, but experts and patients alike speculate that the disease is linked to sugar consumption. A person with Crohn’s disease might experience symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and sudden weight loss.
As with most inflammatory conditions, symptoms of Crohn’s disease tend to fluctuate between periods of activity and inactivity.
Although there is no cure for the disease, most people with Crohn’s disease are able to manage its symptoms thanks to natural remedies and treatments.
Sucralose may worsen symptoms of Crohn’s disease
Self-assessment surveys indicate that sweets and sweetened beverages are thought to trigger flares and inflammation linked to Crohn’s disease. Diagnoses of the disease also coincide with the prevalence of obesity, a metabolic condition linked to sugar consumption.
But table sugar is not the main culprit. Past epidemiological studies indicate that sugar substitutes are linked to health risks and adverse side effects, none more so than Splenda. This popular sugar substitute is comprised of sucralose, a non-nutritive sweetener, and various fillers like maltodextrin and dextrose.
To examine the sugar substitute’s effects on Crohn’s disease, a team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine in Ohio conducted a six-week experiment on mice with the disease.
They fed the mice Splenda in three different doses: 1.08 milligrams of Splenda per milliliter of water (mg/ml); 3.5 mg/ml; and 35 mg/ml. They also administered the same doses on a control group of healthy mice.
At the end of the experiment, they discovered an increased number of pathogenic proteobacteria in the intestines of the mice with Crohn’s disease. Splenda also increased bacterial penetration into the gut wall and worsened gut inflammation. However, Splenda had no substantive effects whatsoever on the control group.
The researchers thus concluded that sucralose-based Splenda could increase the severity of Crohn’s disease and cause further inflammation and gastrointestinal damage.
Other reasons to avoid sucralose
Many artificial sweeteners besides Splenda are sucralose-based products. Apart from its pro-inflammatory effects, here are five other reasons to avoid this highly controversial artificial sweetener.
Sucralose increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes
Sucralose severely heightens the risk of Type 2 diabetes more than table sugar. It causes blood glucose levels to spike and impairs insulin sensitivity. If left unchecked, Type 2 diabetes can lead to kidney damage and heart disease.
Sucralose is linked to a high risk of leukemia
Animal studies provide evidence to suggest that sucralose increases the risk of leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow. (Related: Study investigates the anti-leukemia potential of Australian raspberry.)
Sucralose affects bacterial communities in the gut
Sucralose promotes the proliferation of harmful pathogens in the gut. It also disturbs the beneficial bacterial communities in the gut that aid metabolism and disease prevention.
Sucralose is not biodegradable
Sucralose is resistant to degradation due to its unique chemical structure. Like most non-biodegradable materials, it poses an environmental health problem since it can leech into natural water sources like surface water and groundwater.
Sucralose can cause obesity
Sugar is one of the main culprits responsible for obesity. Since sucralose is non-digestible, it’s highly likely that it sits for long periods inside the body. Over time, it will accumulate in the liver as fat, which will not only contribute to weight gain but also increase the risk of fatty liver disease.
Artificial sweeteners often pose worse health risks than table sugar. Stick to healthy alternatives like honey and organic fruit extracts to avoid chronic diseases and health complications in the long run.
Visit Sweeteners.news for more stories on the health risks of various artificial sweeteners.