True Cellular Formulas Team - June 12, 2023
A Sweet Scandal
Sucralose, a sugar substitute that's found its way into numerous foods and drinks, is under scrutiny. Why, you ask? Recent research has found an alarming link between a derivative of this artificial sweetener and genotoxic effects – a fancy term for DNA disruption. The sweetener might not be as harmless as we've been led to believe, and this finding could have significant implications for our health.
Sucralose is a ubiquitous presence in our diet, added to everything from diet sodas to sugar-free desserts. But, according to the latest study, it's not the innocent sweetness enhancer it claims to be. Research conducted by a team led by Susan Schiffman, an adjunct professor at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has thrown the spotlight on a worrying aspect of this sugar substitute. When digested, sucralose forms several compounds in the gut, one of which is sucralose-6-acetate.
In their latest work, Schiffman and her team have demonstrated that sucralose-6-acetate, this compound formed as we metabolize sucralose, is genotoxic. Put simply, it has the potential to damage our DNA. Even more concerning is the fact that trace amounts of sucralose-6-acetate are present in off-the-shelf sucralose, even before it enters our bodies.
These revelations sit uneasily against guidelines by the European Food Safety Authority. The authority sets a toxicological concern threshold for genotoxic substances at 0.15 micrograms per person per day. Worryingly, Schiffman's work indicates that the trace amounts of sucralose-6-acetate found in a single daily drink sweetened with sucralose exceed this threshold, and that's without considering the additional sucralose-6-acetate produced when the body metabolizes sucralose.
Digging Deeper into the Research
The team's approach was meticulous and comprehensive. They began with a series of in vitro experiments that involved exposing human blood cells to sucralose-6-acetate. By closely monitoring the cells, they observed clear markers of genotoxicity. In layman's terms, the chemical effectively broke up the DNA in the exposed cells, demonstrating its harmful potential.
But the study didn't stop there. It also delved into the effect of sucralose-6-acetate on gut health, given that other studies had hinted at sucralose's adverse impact on this critical aspect of our bodies. The research involved in vitro tests that exposed human gut tissues to sucralose-6-acetate, revealing disturbing results.
When the gut epithelial tissues, which line the walls of your gut, were exposed to both sucralose and sucralose-6-acetate, the chemicals appeared to cause 'leaky gut'. This condition occurs when the gut's wall becomes more permeable, damaging the 'tight junctions', or interfaces where cells in the gut wall connect to each other. A 'leaky gut' allows substances that should be expelled from the body in feces to leak from the gut and be absorbed into the bloodstream - a situation that could have numerous health implications.
As if this wasn't enough, the research team also studied how gut cells' genetic activity responded to sucralose-6-acetate. The findings? Cells exposed to sucralose-6-acetate showed increased activity in genes related to oxidative stress, inflammation, and carcinogenicity.
What It All Means
So, what does all this mean for sucralose, a widely consumed artificial sweetener? Well, the study's findings bring up significant concerns about its potential health effects. Schiffman's research demands that we reconsider the safety and regulatory status of sucralose. As the evidence piles up that it carries considerable risks, the call for people to avoid products containing sucralose is getting louder.
The implications of this research aren't just restricted to those who consume sucralose. It also highlights the need for a comprehensive reevaluation of how we regard and regulate artificial sweeteners in general. The artificial might not be as sweet as it seems, and this could be a wake-up call for the food industry and consumers alike.
Alternative Sweeteners: Whole Foods for the Win
There's no denying that sugar has a firm grip on our palates. But is it possible to sweeten our foods and drinks without resorting to artificial substances that may harm our health? Absolutely! Mother Nature has provided us with a treasure trove of healthier alternatives, which not only add sweetness but also come bundled with beneficial nutrients.
Firstly, there's honey, a natural sweetener with a rich history and tradition. It contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants which can contribute to overall health. Studies even suggest that honey might offer antidepressant, anticonvulsant and anti-anxiety benefits.
Next in line are fruits, which are naturally sweet due to their fructose content. They also contain fibre, water, and various beneficial compounds, so their overall health impact is micronutrient dense. Pureed bananas or dates, for example, can be a great sweetener for baked goods and smoothies.
Maple syrup is another fantastic natural sweetener. Just like honey, it contains antioxidants and can provide a subtle sweetness to a variety of foods. It’s excellent in oatmeal, yogurt, and even in some savory dishes.
Last but not least, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg can be used to trick our palates and brain into thinking that a food or beverage is sweeter than it actually is. They add a warming, sweet taste with virtually no calories.
Balancing Blood Sugar Naturally
One of the main keys to optimal health and preventing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease is maintaining balanced blood sugar levels. When our blood sugar levels are balanced, we have steady energy levels, a healthy body weight, and we're less likely to crave unhealthy foods.
Eating balanced meals is one of the best ways to achieve this. Aim to have a source of protein, fat, and fibre with each meal. Protein sources like lean meats, eggs, or legumes can help slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream, which prevents those dreaded sugar highs and crashes.
Healthy fats, like those found in avocados, nuts, and seeds, also slow sugar absorption and keep you feeling satiated. Fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains and vegetables, work in a similar way. They slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, leading to a more gradual rise and fall in blood sugar levels.
Another beneficial practice is to avoid eating sugar-rich foods alone. If you're going to have a piece of fruit, pair it with some nuts, beef jerky, or a hard-boiled egg. The protein and fat in these foods will slow down the rate at which the fruit sugar enters your bloodstream.
Regular physical activity also plays a vital role in maintaining stable blood sugar levels. A brisk walk after meals, for instance, can help lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Even a two-minute walk helps!
Remember, it's all about balance. Swapping out artificial sweeteners for natural ones and balancing your meals can significantly impact your overall health. Always remember to listen to your body and make changes that suit your individual needs. We're all unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to nutrition and health.
A recent study has discovered that sucralose, a common artificial sweetener, and its byproduct, sucralose-6-acetate, can cause DNA damage and harm gut health. Given the potential health risks, it is important to reconsider the use of sucralose and instead opt for healthier, natural sweeteners. Balancing blood sugar levels through a diet rich in proteins, fats, and fibers, alongside regular physical activity, can also contribute to overall health. The findings highlight the importance of dietary choices and raise concerns about the safety of artificial sweeteners.
- Schiffman, S. S., et al. (2023) Toxicological and pharmacokinetic properties of sucralose-6-acetate and its parent sucralose: in vitro screening assays. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Part B. doi.org/10.1080/10937404.2023.2213903.
- “Threshold of Toxicological Concern.” European Food Safety Authority, www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/threshold-toxicological-concern.
- Marcelo Campos, MD. “Leaky Gut: What Is It, and What Does It Mean for You?” Harvard Health, 16 Nov. 2021, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/leaky-gut-what-is-it-and-what-does-it-mean-for-you-2017092212451.
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- Paterson, Megan et al. “The Role of Dietary Protein and Fat in Glycaemic Control in Type 1 Diabetes: Implications for Intensive Diabetes Management.” Current diabetes reports vol. 15,9 (2015): 61. doi:10.1007/s11892-015-0630-5
- Buffey, A.J., Herring, M.P., Langley, C.K. et al. The Acute Effects of Interrupting Prolonged Sitting Time in Adults with Standing and Light-Intensity Walking on Biomarkers of Cardiometabolic Health in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Med 52, 1765–1787 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-022-01649-4