In a Duke University study researchers found that
Splenda may not be as healthy as previously thought, and
may instead cause weight gain, kill beneficial intestinal
bacteria and block the absorption of prescription drugs.
Over the course of 12 weeks, researchers gave varying
dosages of Splenda to five groups of rats and then collected
their fecal pellets. Though all of the rats consumed the same
amount of food, the rats that received the Splenda treatment
gained significantly more weight than the control group, and
continued to do so even after treatment was stopped.
“We found that the [sucrose] actually causes a decrease in the
microflora,” said lead researcher Dr. Mohamed Abou-Donia,
professor of pharmacology, cancer biology and neurobiology.
“Generally, the microflora is responsible for the synthesis of
vitamins and acts as protection from bad microbes.”
But Dr. Pao-Hwa Lin, assistant research professor
of medicine, noted that the results of the study cannot
necessarily be applied to humans, although he acknowledged
that Splenda could interfere with some medications.
The company says that [Splenda] is derived from sugar,
but there is some processing that is deriving this sucralose
[and] we are not sure whether it is really safe or not,” she said.
“However, [ the findings do ] need to be confirmed in humans.”
Because the study was performed on rats, some students
said the results will not deter them from using the sugar
“The perception is that [artificial sweeteners] are healthier
than pure sugar,” freshman Zhe Ma said, adding that he
prefers their taste to that of sugar.
Although the study was funded by the Sugar Association,
which lobbies for the national sugar industry and sued
Splenda in 2004, Abou-Donia said the group was not
involved in conducting or analyzing the study.
“I had the idea of doing the study, and asked the Sugar
Association if they would fund it. They said yes,” he said.
They did not, however, “have any input on the planning or
performing [of ] the study, interpretation of the results or [the]
writing of the [study],” he said.
In previous studies, researchers discovered that
between 60 and 95 percent of ingested sucralose which
is a component of Splenda is not absorbed from the
gastrointestinal tract. Abou-Donia wanted to find out what
this excess sucralose does in the gut.
The findings of the study were posted on The Journal of
Toxicology and Environmental Health’s Web site.