By now, you know how I feel about animal studies.
Are they useful? As a springboard for future research, certainly. But at the end of the day, their conclusions have limited value to actual human patients. Which is why, in general, you won’t find me reporting on them often.
But I’m sure you’ve also noticed that I make occasional exceptions to this rule. And on the heels of yesterday’s discussion about IBD and heart attacks, today is going to be one of those occasions.
Let me get straight to the research, and you’ll see pretty quickly why it matters…
Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine administered the artificial sweetener sucralose (brand name, Splenda) to a group of mice—some healthy, and some with inflammatory bowel disease—for six weeks. And you can probably already guess what their experiment found.
For starters, a daily dose of this popular sugar substitute significantly worsened gut inflammation in mice with Crohn’s disease — a chronic autoimmune condition, characterized by symptoms like abdominal pain, severe and bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue.
More specifically, researchers found higher numbers of harmful Proteobacteria in this group—including overgrowth of E. coli. The mice with Crohn’s also experienced a higher degree of bacterial penetration into their gut walls when compared to healthy mice without IBD.
And that’s not all. The mice with bowel disease also suffered higher myeloperoxidase activity after sucralose ingestion. (This is an enzyme in white blood cells generated as part of the immune response to harmful microbes.) What does that all mean? Well, basically that artificial sweeteners ramp up already elevated inflammation in predisposed mice with IBD.
Simply put, Splenda — one of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners on the market — hijacks the guts of Crohn’s sufferers, leading to dangerous microbiome imbalances and over-reactive immune cells.
The end result? Increased disease flare-ups and skyrocketing inflammation.
That is, in mice, at least. But think about it: This devastating cascade of changes only required daily exposure to one minor component of the diet. Who knows how many other additives could carry a similar impact?
And if there’s even a remote chance that human Crohn’s sufferers — or anyone for that matter — are vulnerable to the same effects, I think that’s more than enough reason to ditch Splenda like the poison it is.
Crohn’s disease isn’t the only form of IBD — but it is a major one, affecting some 780,000 Americans. The bowel symptoms alone are a severe and chronic drag on quality of life. But as I explained yesterday, the inflammation associated with the condition is as potentially lethal as it is painful.
Most people know by now that sugar is fuel on this fire. But the dangerous truth about artificial sweeteners remains largely unacknowledged by conventional medicine. And as this research shows, what you don’t know absolutely can hurt you.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, as often as I have to until the message sinks in — avoid artificial sweeteners, at all costs. If you really need a sugar substitute — and I recommend using them sparingly, regardless — reach for stevia instead.
Of course, this research also underscores the vital role that a healthy microbiome has against any kind of chronic inflammation — inflammatory bowel disease, in particular.
Eliminating outside sources of bacterial disruption is obviously important. But there’s no substitute for a high-quality probiotic, like Dr. Ohhira’s. Whether or not you suffer from Crohn’s disease, be sure you’re taking one, every single day.
I discuss all the ways you can eliminate inflammation with food in my book, The A-List Diet. Now available in paperback! Click here to find out how you can get your hands on it today!