Millions of people consume the artificial sweetener Splenda every day, which is used in more than 4,500 foods and beverage products on the market, from diet sodas, to sugar-free gum, to baked goods.
But a new independent Italian study, printed in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, shows mice who were fed mass amounts of sucralose, the equivalent of a human drinking 10 diet sodas per day, from gestation throughout their lifespan, developed cancerous tumors and leukemia.
Splenda is the brand name for the sweetening agent sucralose.
Now, the Center for Science in the Public Interest is adding Splenda to its list of artificial sweeteners to avoid, along with saccharin, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium.
The non-profit food safety group says the study is so important because it isn't funded by Splenda's manufacturer, which it claims tested fewer animals and for a lesser amount of time.
However, CSPI officials say the new study's results doesn't mean that you should switch to regular sodas, which, thanks to sugar and high fructose corn syrup, can increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
CSPI scientists say, despite the cancer risk, diet soda still trumps regular soda, but urge consumers to switch to the king of all hyrdration - good old-fashioned water.
Many studies have revealed the dangers of artificial sweeteners.
So, which sweeteners are safe? The more natural, the better, such as these ideas from Prevention Magazine, including raw honey and maple syrup.
CSPI has its own list of safe sweeteners in its Chemical Cuisine database, which rates the safety of food additives.
Their list of safer sweeteners include, in part, stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, and castoreum - which comes from the anal castor sacs of beavers!
Yes, you read that correctly.
The person who first discovered that a beaver's anal castoreum is sweet is unclear, but you won't find the substance printed on any ingredient list.
It typically falls under the category "natural flavorings" and is sometimes used to sweeten vanilla-flavored foods.
The FDA also deems castoreum as safe to consume.