An artificial sweetener has been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer in a controversial new study.
Researchers in Italy have reported that studies in mice show that sucralose products such as Splenda raised the chance of developing leukaemia.
However, Splenda has strongly denied the claims, and stressed that food and health safety bodies have agreed that the product is safe, and does not cause cancer.
As part of the study, the team at the Ramazzini Institute gave 457 male mice and 396 female mice varying amounts of sucralose, The Telegraph reported.
Researchers gave mice doses of Splenda four times higher than the recommended daily amount for humans, the Mail Online reported.
Scientists found that male mice were more likely to develop leukaemia after being fed sucralose.
The paper published in the 'Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health' said it goes against previous studies which show that sucralose is “biologically inert".
The researchers added that more studies are needed to prove whether sucralose is safe.
Heartland Food Products Group, which makes Splenda, responded that the study “does not reflect the collective body of scientific evidence proving the safety of sucralose.”
It added that health bodies have “found other studies conducted by the Ramazzini Institute to be unreliable” and said it “conducts studies using an unconventional design and has been criticised for not following internationally-recognised safety assessment standards.”
The group went on to say that “collective scientific evidence strongly supports that sucralose is safe and does not cause cancer” and that regulatory authorities including the US Food and Drug Administration, the European Food Safety Authority, and the World Health Organised have accepted the results.
13 ways to help prevent cancer
13 ways to help prevent cancer
Stopping smoking. This notoriously difficult habit to break sees tar build-up in the lungs and DNA alteration and causes 15,558 cancer deaths a year
Avoiding the sun, and the melanoma that comes with overexposure to harmful UV rays, could help conscientious shade-lovers dodge being one of the 7,220 people who die from it
A diet that is low in red meat can help to prevent bowel cancer, according to the research - with 30 grams a day recommended for men, and 25 a day recommended for women
Foods high in fibre, meanwhile, can further make for healthier bowels. Processed foods in developed countries appear to be causing higher rates of colon cancer than diets in continents such as Africa, which have high bean and pulse intakes
Two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables a day were given as the magic number for good diet in the research. Overall, diet causes only slightly fewer cancer deaths than sun exposure in Australia, at 7,000 a year
Obesity and being overweight, linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, causes 3,917 deaths by cancer a year on its own
2007 Getty Images
Dying of a cancer caused by infection also comes in highly, linked to 3,421 cancer deaths a year. Infections such as human papilloma virus - which can cause cervical cancer in women - and hepatitis - can be prevented by vaccinations and having regular check-ups
Cutting back on drinks could reduce the risk of cancers caused by alcohol - such as liver cancer, bowel cancer, breast cancer and mouth cancer - that are leading to 3,208 deaths a year
2014 Getty Images
Sitting around and not getting the heart pumping - less than one hour's exercise a day - is directly leading to about 1,800 people having lower immune functions and higher hormone levels, among other factors, that cause cancers
2011 Getty Images
Hormone replacement therapy, which is used to relieve symptoms of the menopause in women, caused 539 deaths from (mainly breast) cancer in Australia last year. It did, however, prevent 52 cases of colorectal cancers
2003 Getty Images
Insufficient breastfeeding, bizarrely, makes the top 10. Breastfeeding for 12 months could prevent 235 cancer cases a year, said the research
Oral contraceptives, like the Pill, caused about 105 breast cancers and 52 cervical cancers - but it also prevented about 1,440 ovarian and uterine (womb) cases of cancer last year
2006 Getty Images
Taking aspirin also prevented 232 cases in the Queensland research of colorectal and oesophagal cancers - but as it can also cause strokes, is not yet recommended as a formal treatment against the risk of cancer
Sucralose was approved for use in food in Europe in 2002, when the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Food concluded the sweetener is “not harmful to the immune system, does not cause cancer, infertility, pose a risk to pregnancy or affect blood sugar levels”.
The European Food Safety Authority reviewed sucralose in 2011, and said it is acceptable for an adult to eat 15mg per kg of body weight of sucralose each day.
In 2012, Forbes writer Trevor Butterworth criticised previous studies on sucralose by the Ramazzini Institute, and alleged: “No matter what substance the Institute tests for cancer, the results always seem to be positive, whereas other laboratories testing the same substances repeatedly fail to come up with the same findings.”
Dr Morando Soffritti of the Rammazzini Institute said that the allegations are not true, and rejected claims that every compound it tests is found to be carcinogenic.
Dr Claire Knight, Cancer Research UK’s health information manager, said: "Importantly this study was only done in mice. Overall studies in people show that artificial sweeteners don’t increase cancer risk. Newer sweeteners coming onto the market such as those containing sucralose seem to be safe, but it’s important that these supplements are monitored over time to be absolutely sure any potential risks are spotted."Reuse content