Sucralose and DNA Damage: The Truth

Serious Data or Just More Headline Grabbing?

A new study reports that sucralose causes DNA damage, but it looks like they’re playing funny games with the numbers.

Nearly two decades ago, I wrote an article that dispelled some nonsensical myths that were floating around about the artificial sweetener, sucralose (Splenda).

It looks like it’s time for round two, because I’ve recently been inundated with news stories based upon a recently published study (1) conducted by a longtime sucralose critic claiming that “a common sweetener may damage DNA.”

The headlines are, of course, meant to scare the bejesus out of you by implying that the sweetener can cause DNA damage and subsequently lead to cancer, but that’s not actually what the study found.

Genotoxicity, Mutagenicity and Cancer

The authors of the study claim that while sucralose itself has been studied previously (it’s been approved by just about every major regulatory health agency in the world) (2,3), a metabolite of it (sucralose 6-acetate or S6A) that may be formed after ingestion and may also be present in small amounts in the product itself, appears to have genotoxic effects.

A “genotoxic effect” is another way of saying that it may cause damage to DNA. However, simply because something is genotoxic (damages DNA) doesn’t mean it will also be mutagenic (damages DNA and causes an irreversible mutation that could potentially lead to a cancerous cell).

For example, pasty people like me tend to worry about ultraviolet radiation from the sun because sunlight is known to be genotoxic and mutagenic. See the difference? Mutagenic agents will be genotoxic, but genotoxic agents may not necessarily be mutagenic.

Is Sucralose 6-acetate (S6A) Mutagenic?

According to the data in the allegedly damning study, sucralose itself (this was already established well before these authors published this study) and S6A were NOT mutagenic. The authors clearly state this as well. Nonetheless, even being genotoxic without being mutagenic isn’t necessarily a great thing, as there may be circumstances where mutagenic effects kick in.

Don’t worry, though. This is where their study starts to fall apart.

Is S6A Really Genotoxic? Only at Absurd Concentrations In Vitro

The authors do show evidence that S6A is genotoxic in vitro. However, the data are based on results in cultured cells, not actual living organisms. Perhaps, more importantly, were the outrageously high concentrations required to reach a potentially genotoxic effect. The authors indicate that they had to use at least 353 micrograms per milliliter or higher to begin generating evidence of a genotoxic effect.

Now, compare this to the peak plasma concentration of 108 nanograms (a microgram is 1,000 times bigger than a nanogram) per milliliter an adult human is exposed to after a 68 mg dose of sucralose (4). That’s over a 3,000-fold difference! Now consider that S6A would only be present at a fraction (< 1%) of sucralose levels, and the difference would be even larger!

In terms of fitness speak, it’s as absurd as going around telling people you bench “200” when you mean grams instead of pounds!

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve caught researchers using outrageous and completely irrelevant concentrations in vitro to make an argument about a potential for harm (5). It’s unfortunate that headlines sometimes take precedence over unnecessary hysteria.

Haven’t I Seen This Before?

This isn’t the first time that research groups have shown a molecule to be genotoxic, but only at ridiculously high concentrations. The same thing happened to caffeine (6,7); you know, the most widely consumed psychostimulant compound in the world that humans have been enjoying for thousands of years?

Thankfully, it was finally recognized that coffee isn’t a carcinogen, but I’m sure if the internet were around back when the original research was done, the media would have made sure to have made similarly suggestive and alarming headlines.

Large Balls

I’d say someone has some large balls to reference the same agency that effectively refutes their own arguments. For example, the authors of the sucralose study attempt to distort their findings even more by citing the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which is the European Union’s equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration.

Specifically, the authors note that the EFSA has a suggested threshold of concern for genotoxic agents at 0.15 micrograms per person per day and that a single serving of a drink flavored with sucralose would exceed this threshold by several fold. The problem, as we’ve discussed, is that S6A is not genotoxic, except at concentrations that no human could ever reach without first dying from water intoxication from drinking hundreds if not thousands of liters of flavored beverages.

What I find additionally interesting is that the authors reference the EFSA when this is the same EFSA that approved sucralose as a safe artificial sweetener at a level of intake that’s three times the U.S. FDA’s acceptable daily intake (ADI).

Furthermore, this is the same EFSA that fully rebutted another sucralose study that these authors repeatedly cite as additional evidence of potential harm (8). It takes chutzpah to cite an agency that contradicts their unfounded claims.

Be Alert!

You’ll likely continue to see ripples from this study as its preposterous findings percolate through the masses. Unfortunately, in vitro studies are prone to exploitation by utilizing high concentrations to achieve a given outcome.

This isn’t unique to this study. In general, be skeptical of in vitro studies and always evaluate the concentrations being used. In short, there’s no good evidence that sucralose or S6A is genotoxic at any concentrations that are conceivably relevant to human exposure.

You’ve got enough to worry about, but sucralose causing cancer isn’t one of them.

Metabolic Drive Metabolism Boosting / Award-Winning Protein




  1. Schiffman SS, Scholl EH, Furey TS, Nagle HT. Toxicological and pharmacokinetic properties of sucralose-6-acetate and its parent sucralose: in vitro screening assays. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2023 May 29:1-35. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2023.2213903. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37246822.

  2. Roberts A, Lobach AR. Response to the Letter to the Editor by S. Schiffman and H. Nagle: Revisiting the data and information that has collectively established the safety of low/no-calorie sweeteners, including sucralose. Food Chem Toxicol. 2019 Oct;132:110691. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2019.110691. Epub 2019 Jul 19. PMID: 31330167.

  3. Berry C, Brusick D, Cohen SM, Hardisty JF, Grotz VL, Williams GM. Sucralose Non-Carcinogenicity: A Review of the Scientific and Regulatory Rationale. Nutr Cancer. 2016 Nov-Dec;68(8):1247-1261. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2016.1224366. Epub 2016 Sep 21. PMID: 27652616; PMCID: PMC5152540.

  4. Sylvetsky AC, Bauman V, Blau JE, Garraffo HM, Walter PJ, Rother KI. Plasma concentrations of sucralose in children and adults. Toxicol Environ Chem. 2017;99(3):535-542. doi: 10.1080/02772248.2016.1234754. Epub 2016 Oct 17. PMID: 28775393; PMCID: PMC5536901.

  5. Breaking News: Testosterone and Antidepressants - #6 by Cy_Willson).

  6. Brambilla G, Mattioli F, Robbiano L, Martelli A. Genotoxicity and carcinogenicity studies of bronchodilators and antiasthma drugs. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2013 May;112(5):302-13. doi: 10.1111/bcpt.12054. Epub 2013 Mar 21. PMID: 23374861.

  7. EFSA Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF); Silano V, Bolognesi C, Castle L, Cravedi JP, Engel KH, Fowler P, Franz R, Grob K, Gürtler R, Husøy T, Kärenlampi S, Milana MR, Penninks A, Tavares Poças MF, Smith A, Tlustos C, Wölfle D, Zorn H, Zugravu CA, Beckman Sundh U, Brimer L, Mosesso P, Mulder G, Anastassiadou M, Arcella D, Carfí M, Valtueña Martinez S, Mennes W. Scientific Opinion on Flavouring Group Evaluation 49, Revision 1 (FGE.49Rev1): xanthine alkaloids from the priority list. EFSA J. 2017 Apr 25;15(4):e04729. doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2017.4729. PMID: 32625452; PMCID: PMC7009880.

  8. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS); Aguilar F, Crebelli R, Di Domenico A, Dusemund B, Frutos MJ, Galtier P, Gott D, Gundert-Remy U, Lambré C, Leblanc JC, Lindtner O, Moldeus P, Mosesso P, Parent-Massin D, Oskarsson A, Stankovic I, Waalkens-Berendsen I, Woutersen RA, Wright M, Younes M, Ciccolallo L, Colombo P, Lodi F, Mortensen A. Statement on the validity of the conclusions of a mouse carcinogenicity study on sucralose (E 955) performed by the Ramazzini Institute. EFSA J. 2017 May 8;15(5):e04784. doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2017.4784. PMID: 32625489; PMCID: PMC7010144.


Really appreciate you tackling this one, Cy!


My experience with sucralose is gut issues. I cannot confirm 100% it was the cause but I was drinking energy drink / 3 protein shakes a day with it. I had horrible digestive issues and weird uneven hair growth on the side of my head. That all went away after I cut it out entirely.


i’m less concerned with sucralose than i am with the fake colors and other junk added to everything.
recently purchased a supplement that proudly displayed a card on top which said they removed titanium dioxide due to EU regs. I would have thought nothing of it except titanium dioxide still was listed on the bottle.
after some googling, i also came across yellow 40, which was also in the ingredients. it essentially leads to cancer. as do some of the other colors. since both my parents are battling cancer right now i’m more concerned than i have been in the past.

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It’s not supposed to be good for the gut micro biome ,which can cause a lot of different symptoms including of course gut issues .


Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Biotest, T-Nation’s sister company, sells several products containing Sucralose. Besides the DNA concern, there are also gut health concerns. As the health supplement space grows and consumers are reading labels, it might be wise for Biotest to consider reformulating some of their products to remove questionable ingredients: Sucralose, carmel coloring, seed oils, etc. For myself, I’ve taken a look at all the products I’ve been using containing Sucralose and decided to find alternatives.


Did you not read the article?
The study was in vitro and in insanely high doses not likely to be consumed by anyone. Not really a DNA concern at this point. It’s an attention grabbing article that generated fear based headlines.
Do you have links to the gut microbiome studies? I would be curious to read those and see if they use randomized controlled human trials or something else.

I would think the other ingredients in these (similar to black coffee) could be contributing to those issues more so than the sucralose.

Ethyritol gives me a lot more gut issues than sucralose.

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I had the same stomach issues. Definitely was not placebo. I accidentally bought a case of drinks with sucralose and after the first one I had wrenching gut pain. I stopped drinking them then drank it again a few weeks later not wanting to waste my money and thinking it was maybe a coincidence. Nope. Bad stomach pains and severe gas ensued. With something like Stevia out there, I don’t understand why manufacturers are so cheap wanting to stick with Sucralose that obviously causes problems for a good number of people.

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Here’s a recent study.

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I think we are missing the big picture to some extent. Sucralose is an unnatural chemical added to highly processed foods to make them palatable (well, at least once you get a taste for it. I find it completely inedible). Why would someone choose to consume sucralose, aspartame, artificial colors and flavors, and the like on a regular basis that is interested in their health? To me, that’s what I don’t understand. One thing that is clear in nutrition science is that the consumption of whole, unprocessed foods leads to far better health gains than eating ultraprocessed, manipulated products.


Lets talk about weird people like yourself who obsess over the most minute and irrelevant ingredients in food that have virtually no effect on anything worth mentioning, but for some reason you get your kicks by out snobbing the next person by making it seem like the one billionth of one percent amount of X ingredient is going to have terrifying and unknown effects for you in 5 years. Might want to get a life.


Not everyone wants sugar. I use Raw Stevia, not sure if this is better/worse than anything else. Doesn’t mean I am not “health” conscious, it just means I want an alternative to sugar which can cause health issues in it’s own right.


The gut microbiome issue is a complicated one. For one, it’s extremely difficult to study accurately in humans as there are so many variables (diet, lifestyle, body composition) that can influence the composition of microbes in the gut. Having said that, the studies with the strongest designs (RCTs) have produced conflicting results.

This is the most recent and comprehensive review I’ve seen and the author’s conclude that that it’s too difficult to determine whether these changes are occurring due to a given sweetener and what the significance of those changes would be. You also have data showing the complete opposite of effects in humans versus rodents.

Something else you’ll find is that the there are data showing changes regardless of the sweetener, natural or otherwise.


I agree. The goal should be to eat whole foods that contain naturally occurring sugars (like whole fruits) and to retrain the palate to not need excessively sweet, artificial foods. Even raw honey has shown to have health benefits and does not cause the problems that added sugars do. If you are eating healthy and avoiding ultraprocessed foods, an apple tastes like a dessert and sucralose tastes like something you run far away from. A swirl of raw honey in kefir tastes fantastic, while a Diet Coke or other artificially sweetened beverage tastes like garbage.

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This is pretty much where I’m at. I use protein powder daily (I’m sure like a lot of other folks on this site). There are plenty of options out there for unflavored protein powder or Stevia sweetened protein powder. I mostly use the unflavored stuff, but the Stevia sweetened one is a nice treat. With these options available, I just see no reason to opt for a product that has a bunch of artificial stuff in it (I’d gladly buy unflavored Metabolic Drive if Biotest made it). I’d rather save my artificial product consumption for other things, like the occasional diet soft drink.

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Did anyone see this study? Sugar alcohols and liver cancer risk, specifically for erythritol.

Aspartame is just two amino acids the fool the sweetness receptors on the tongue to think it’s sugar. Sucralose is sugar with 3 hydroxyl groups replace with chlorine atoms. Over 85% is excreted unchanged and the remaining 15% is peed out, also unchanged. I don’t see the danger. And stevia, despite its “natural” reputation, is also rather heavily processed.


I don’t know that I see the danger either. I do plenty of things that are much less healthy than consuming artificial sweeteners. The point I’m trying to express is that when I’m taking a product for health purposes, I prefer to take a product that has as little artificial stuff in it as possible. Since there are unflavored protein powder options out there, I don’t mind the taste and since switching haven’t reduced my use of them, I’m opting for them at this point. Now if I didn’t like the taste or found I wasn’t using them as much – in other words if my choice boiled down to using protein powder with artificial sweeteners or not using protein powder – I’d use the protein powder with the sweetener and probably wouldn’t think a bit about it.


It’s a common misconception that just because something is “natural” it’s better or healthier for you versus something synthetic.

As far Stevia goes, there are data out there that can be used to make a negative argument about it (and just about anything else for that matter–see below). But as I’ve tried to do with sucralose, it’s important to keep in mind the limitations of the research and whether it’s truly relevant to human health or not.

A critical review of the genetic toxicity of steviol and steviol glycosides - ScienceDirect