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It seems like every six months a new study is published on the bitter truth about Splenda's lack of safety, which is still marketed to the world as a safe alternative to relatively calorie-rich sweeteners like sugar and honey.
Now a new study published in the open access journal PLoS titled, "Sucralose Induces Biochemical Responses in Daphnia magna [water flea]," indicates that the artificial sweetener sucralose – sold under the trade name Splenda and approved for consumption in at least 70 countries – may have sublethal adverse effects on animal behavior and physiology due to its oxidative and possibly neurotoxic properties.
The researchers described the nature and intention of their study:
"To our knowledge, this is the first study examining biomarker responses in aquatic organisms exposed to sucralose. Based on the observed swimming abnormalities in Daphnia exposed to sucralose  and recent findings that correlate AChE (acetylcholinesterase) activity with oxidative stress in humans , , we hypothesized that these behavioural effects are related to alterations in AChE and oxidative status."
Sucralose -- a sucrose containing three chlorine atoms -- despite being marketed initially by the manufacturer as somewhat natural (i.e. "it tastes like sugar because it is made from sugar"), is an extremely synthetic chemical compound highly resistant to biodegradation, and like other compounds within the organochloride class of chemicals, which include pesticides like DDT, it persists for a long time in the environment. [i] For instance, a recent study found it detectable in offshore waters, such as the Atlantic Gulf Stream.[ii] Indeed, it is because of its exceptional non-biodegradability that it has been proposed to be an ideal tracer for human (anthropogenic) activities.[iii]-[iv]
This extremely popular sweetener has already been identified to have potential diabetes-promoting and carcinogenic properties. For instance, preliminary research in animals indicates it may be a cause of leukemia,[v] which motivated the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), last year, to downgrade its safety rating from "Safe" to "Caution."
One of the possible mechanisms behind its purported leukemogenic activity may be due to it producing one of the world's most highly toxic manmade compounds – dioxin -- when heated. [vi] Sucralose has also been proposed to be behind a global uptick in inflammatory bowel disease, most particularly evident in Canada. Considering the intimate relationship between the 'enteric brain,' or gut microbiome, and the central nervous system, this connection may reveal hitherto unrecognized neurological and behavior altering consequences of the use of this artificial sweetener.
What the Sucralose Study Found
The new study looked at the effects that sucralose had on the following measurable parameters in Daphnia magna, or water flea:
- Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) – an enzyme which hydrolyzes acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter essential for terminating synaptic transmission, a primary target of nerve agents and pesticides.
- Oxidative biomarkers (oxygen radical absorbing capacity, ORAC, and lipid peroxidation, TBARS)