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News about Splenda® May Not Be So Sweet

A study conducted by North Carolina's Duke University found that the artificial sweetener Splenda® may cause weight gain and suppress “good” bacteria in the gut. The results of the study are published in the September issue of the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.

Splenda® is a low calorie sugar replacement used in over 4,000 products worldwide. The use of sugar substitutes has exploded in recent years but the science behind them has yet to catch up.

In order to test the effects of this widely used sugar substitute, researchers split 50 male rats into five groups. The control group was given only water with its diet and the other four groups were given water that contained either 100mg, 300mg, 500mg, and 1,000mg of Splenda® each day.

Rats were used in the study because the Acceptable Daily Limit (ADI) for Splenda®, approved by the FDA, was determined using rat studies.

After 12 weeks the rats were measured for several strains of good bacteria, called probiotics. The strains measured included bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, and bacteroide. Relative to the control group, all of the rats that received Splenda® had a reduction of good bacteria ranging from 37 percent to 68 percent.

The researchers also found about a 10 percent increase in body weight for the rats that consumed Splenda® compared to the control group.

The mechanism behind this weight gain is unknown, but it may be because sugars are simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates get into the blood stream very quickly and raise blood sugar levels, which could lead to weight gain.

Other experts think that the weight gain could be because the body does not recognize these artificial sweetners as food. Since fake sugars don't satisfy our need for nourishment they may lead to increased food cravings.

This was a very controversial study and makers of Splenda® were quick to question the conclusions while highlighting a number of other studies advocating the safety of their sweetener. Despite the controversy, keeping an eye on the amount of Splenda® and other artificial sweeteners you use may be a good idea.

If you are worried about gut health, or concerned that your good bacteria levels may be low, try consuming more foods like yogurt and cultured milk. If this proves difficult, try incorporating a quality probiotic supplement. The best products have several bacteria strains and billions of bacteria cells. Also make sure that the product you choose is packaged to block light, air, and moisture, which can easily kill probiotics.
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