The aim of this study was to (1) determine if the organochlorine artificial sweetener sucralose is metabolized in rat intestine with repeated dosing and (2) examine whether sucralose might bioaccumulate in rat adipose tissue. Sucralose was administered to 10 rats by gavage daily for 40 days at an average dosage of 80.4 mg/kg/day.
The dosages were within the range utilized in historical toxicology studies submitted for regulatory approval in North America, Europe, and Asia. Feces and urine were collected individually from each animal for every 24-hr period during the 40-day dosing period. Analysis of the urine and fecal extracts by ultra-high performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS/MS) revealed two new biotransformation products that have not previously been reported. These two metabolites are both acetylated forms of sucralose that are less polar and hence more lipophilic than sucralose itself. These metabolites were present in urine and feces throughout the sucralose dosing period and still detected at low levels in the urine 11 days after discontinuation of sucralose administration and 6 days after sucralose was no longer detected in the urine or feces.
The finding of acetylated sucralose metabolites in urine and feces do not support early metabolism studies, on which regulatory approval was based, that claimed ingested sucralose is excreted unchanged (i.e. not metabolized). The historical metabolic studies apparently failed to detect these metabolites in part because investigators used a methanol fraction from feces for analysis along with thin layer chromatography and a low-resolution linear radioactivity analyzer. Further, sucralose was found in adipose tissue in rats two weeks after cessation of the 40-day feeding period even though this compound had disappeared from the urine and feces. Thus, depuration of sucralose which accumulated in fatty tissue requires an extended period of time after discontinuation of chemical ingestion.
These new findings of metabolism of sucralose in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and its accumulation in adipose tissue were not part of the original regulatory decision process for this agent and indicate that it now may be time to revisit the safety and regulatory status of this organochlorine artificial sweetener.
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