Artificial sweetener might ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

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New research suggests that sucralose, the basis for artificial sweeteners, prevents cells from attacking healthy body tissue. Senior author, Professor Karen Vousden of the Francis Crick Institute in London, commented on the rationale of the study. “We’re hoping to piece together a bigger picture of the effects of diet on health and disease,” said Professor Vousden.

The mice model shows that large amounts of sucralose lowered the activation of T-cells that fight diseases and infections.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder whereby the overactive immune system attacks healthy cells.

Professor Vousden added: “More research and studies are needed to see whether these effects of sucralose in mice can be reproduced in humans.

“If these initial findings hold up in people, they could one day offer a way to limit some of the harmful effects of autoimmune conditions.”

For the experiment, laboratory rodents were fed the equivalent of the acceptable daily intake of sucralose recommended by the European and American food safety authorities.

Researchers found that mice fed sucralose had a dampened T-cell response to infection.

Co-author, Dr Julianna Blagih said: “We’ve shown a commonly used sweetener, sucralose, is not a completely inert molecule.

“We’ve uncovered an unexpected effect on the immune system. We are keen to explore whether other cell types or processes are similarly affected by this sweetener.”

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Fellow co-author Dr Fabio Zani added: “We do not want people to take away the message sucralose is harmful if consumed in the course of a normal balanced diet.

“The doses we used in mice would be very hard to achieve without medical intervention. The impact on the immune system we observed seems reversible.

“We believe it may be worth studying if sucralose could be used to ameliorate conditions such as autoimmunity – especially in combinational therapies.”

The EU’s Scientific Committee on Food declared Splenda, an artificial sweetener, is “not harmful to the immune system, does not cause cancer, infertility, pose a risk to pregnancy or affect blood sugar levels”.

While this research is in the earliest stages, what can be done for those currently suffering from rheumatoid arthritis?

The Arthritis Foundation pointed out that rheumatoid arthritis can lead to chronic joint pain, tenderness, swelling or stiffness.

Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to joint stiffness first thing in the morning, which can last for up to 30 minutes.

“Many people with rheumatoid arthritis get very tired (fatigued) and some may have a low-grade fever,” the charity adds.

Self-care techniques to ease painful joint symptoms include eating a “balanced, nutritious diet” and incorporating daily movement into your routine.

Simple swaps, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can make a difference.

To help relieve pain in the moment, cold or hot presses can be beneficial.

Topical creams can also help to relieve achy joints, as can taking omega-3 fish oil supplements.

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