Sucralose sweetens without adding calories. This sweetener, however, when consumed often, can increase blood glucose and insulin levels in healthy people, as well as damage their gut microbiota. The paradox emerges from a clinical study of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). (1)
Sucralose, 600 times sweeter than sugar. With chlorine atoms
The sweetener sucralose (E955) is obtained starting from the introduction of chlorine atoms into the sucrose structure. It is a molecule with a high sweetening power (more than 600 times higher than sugar), non-calorie and more stable to heat and a wide pH range. For this it is widely used by the food industry.
Previous research had highlighted that sucralose is also among the acaloric sweeteners that can cause a (paradoxical) weight gain. (2) On the other hand, it had emerged as a favoring haematological neoplasms. (3) Now, the clinical study conducted by Professor Galileo Escobedo, researcher of the Unidad de Medicina Experimental AN M - General Hospital of Mexico, reveals that E955 causes changes in healthy people similar to those that occur before the onset of type 2 diabetes.
The clinical study
Researchers gave the first group of participants a daily dose of 10 mg of sucralose dissolved in water for 48 weeks. This dose 'is equivalent to half a liter of juice or four biscuits' and represents the average - moderate - consumption of the sweetener. The control group was given water without the sweetener.
At the beginning and at the end of the 10 weeks of sucralose exposure, the researchers performed measurements of glucose, insulin and leptin levels, as well as a determination of the microbiota profile by sequencing and PCR procedure.
In the treated group with sucralose, the researchers found an increase in the bacterium Clostridium coccoides, which is related to blood glucose and insulin spikes and a tendency to develop type 2 diabetes, and a decrease in Lactobacillus acidophilus, necessary for intestinal health (4). This intestinal dysbiosis is associated with the tendency of intestinal inflammation and digestive disorders.
Professor Escobedo explains that prolonged blood glucose spikes for long periods damage nerves and blood vessels, as seen in people with pre-diabetic conditions. And the study shows how a similar phenomenon is activated by the consumption of sucralose, with the emergence of the same alterations typical of diabetes - hyperinsulinemia, hyperglycemia, intolerance to carbohydrates and digestive disorders - in separate phases.
Although sucralose is an additive authorized in the EU, therefore subject to periodic re-evaluation by EFSA, the researchers suggest avoiding its consumption. And more generally, minimize the consumption of ultra-processed foods. For this purpose, the researchers recommend not accustoming children to sweet flavors.
Isis Consuelo Sanlucar Chirinos
(1) Fernando Guzmàn, Endulzantes artificiales pueden causar alteraciones parecidas a la diabetes. Gaceta UNAM, 8/04/2022, https://www.gaceta.unam.mx/endulzantes-artificiales-pueden-causar-alteraciones-parecidas-a-la-diabetes/?utm_campaign=meetedgar&utm_medium=social&utm_source=meetedgar.com
(2) Marta Strinati. Zero calorie sweeteners, paradoxical effect. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) One https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/dolcificare/dolcificanti-zero-calorie-effetto-paradosso
(3) Soffritti M., Padovani M., Tibaldi E., Falcioni L., Manservisi F., Lauriola M., Bua L., Manservigi M., and Belpoggi F. (2016). Sucralose administered in feed, beginning prenatally through lifespan, induces hematopoietic neoplasias in male swiss mice. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2016 Jan; 22 (1): 7-17. doi: 10.1080 / 10773525.2015.1106075
(4) Marta Strinati. Lactobacillus reuteri, a probiotic useful against colon cancer. USA study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade), 16/02/2022. https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/lactobacillus-reuteri-un-probiotico-utile-contro-il-cancro-al-colon-studio-usa
Graduated in food engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, she is attending the master's degree in 'Food Safety Lawyer and Consultant' at Alma Mater, University of Bologna.