The in vitro effects of artificial and natural sweeteners on the immune system using whole blood culture assays

J Immunoassay Immunochem. 2014;35(1):26-36. doi: 10.1080/15321819.2013.784197.


This article investigates the effects of commercially available artificial (aspartame, saccharin, sucralose) and natural sweeteners (brown sugar, white sugar, molasses) on the immune system. Human whole blood cultures were incubated with various sweeteners and stimulated in vitro with either phytohemagglutinin or endotoxin. Harvested supernatants were screened for cytotoxicity and cytokine release. Results showed that none of the artificial or natural sweeteners proved to be cytotoxic, indicating that no cell death was induced in vitro. The natural sweetener, sugar cane molasses (10 ug/mL), enhanced levels of the inflammatory biomarker IL-6 while all artificial sweeteners (10 ug/mL) revealed a suppressive effect on IL-6 secretion (P < 0.001). Exposure of blood cells to sucralose-containing sweeteners under stimulatory conditions reduced levels of the biomarker of humoral immunity, Interleukin-10 (P < 0.001). The cumulative suppression of Interleukin-6 and Interleukin-10 levels induced by sucralose may contribute to the inability in mounting an effective humoral response when posed with an exogenous threat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aspartame / pharmacology
  • Blood Cells / cytology
  • Blood Cells / drug effects*
  • Blood Cells / immunology
  • Endotoxins / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-10 / agonists
  • Interleukin-10 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology*
  • Interleukin-6 / agonists
  • Interleukin-6 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology*
  • Molasses
  • Phytohemagglutinins / pharmacology
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Saccharin / pharmacology
  • Sucrose / analogs & derivatives
  • Sucrose / pharmacology*
  • Sweetening Agents / pharmacology*


  • Endotoxins
  • IL10 protein, human
  • IL6 protein, human
  • Interleukin-6
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Interleukin-10
  • Sucrose
  • trichlorosucrose
  • Saccharin
  • Aspartame