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Splenda: Causing More Inflammation for Crohn's Sufferers?

Animal Research Ties the Popular Product to Elevated Inflammation in Affected Subjects

New research on mouse models from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine warns that sucralose, the artificial sweetener contained in the brand Splenda can exacerbate the gut inflammation that accompanies Crohn’s disease. Researchers studied mice from a genetic line that is affected by a form of Crohn’s disease in comparison to a control group of healthy mice. When given drinking water supplemented with Splenda, the Cohn’s-affected cohort exhibited overgrowth of E. coli in the intestine, and increased bacterial penetration of the gut wall. The control group did not exhibit this reaction. E.coli is a member of the Proteobacteria group, most of which have an outer membrane composed of lipopolysaccharides. These normally trigger an immune response including inflammation to eradicate the invader. Overgrowth can result in chronic inflammation that persists, as in inflammatory bowel diseases. The findings were published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.

Ingestion of Splenda was also found to result in increased myeloperoxidase activity in the Crohn’s affected mice, but not in the control group. The researchers hypothesize that elevated E.coli presence triggers the increased production of this enzyme as part of the immune response, further exacerbating Crohn’s disease symptoms. Splenda is a combination of sucralose and a digestible sweetener, maltodextrin. Lead author Alex Rodriguez-Palacios, DVM, MSc, DVSc, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, commented, “Several studies have examined the ingredients found in this widely available product, separately. Here, we used Splenda as a means to test the combined effect of the commercial ingredients. This is perhaps the closest we can get to provide experimental evidence that these ingredients together induce biological changes known to cause inflammation which could be harmful over time to susceptible animal subjects. Our next step would be to run experiments directly in patients, but that is more difficult to conduct given the large variability that is inherent to human genetics, microbiome and diet.” 

Read a news story about the study findings.

The journal article may be read here.

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