Artificial sweeteners, supplements are toxic to your gut, study finds

Bad news for fans of Diet Coke

New research from scientists in Israel adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting artificial sweeteners have dangerous effects on gut microbes — the complex of microorganisms inside the digestive tracts of humans and other animals.

» RELATED: Are artificial sweeteners safe (and how much can you have)?

Recently published in the journal Molecules, the study highlights how exposure to six FDA-approved artificial sweeteners leads to toxic bacteria in the gut microbe, which can ultimately cause significant health complications.

Lead scientist Ariel Kushmaro, professor of microbial biotechnology at Ben-Gurion University, and his team examined the effects of aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame and acesulfame potassium-k plus 10 sports supplements containing those artificial sweeteners, on the gut.

» RELATED: Will low-calorie sugar substitutes, artificial sweeteners actually help you lose weight?

After dosing E. coli with artificial sweeteners several times, the researchers found that even a couple of artificially sweetened sodas or cups of coffee could influence the gut microbe and make it more difficult for you to process regular sugar and carbohydrates.

They noticed that exposure to concentrations of just 1 mg/ml of the sugar substitutes led to toxicity.

“We modified bioluminescent E. coli bacteria, which luminesce when they detect toxicants and act as a sensing model representative of the complex microbial system," Kushmaro said in a statement. “This is further evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely affects gut microbial activity which can cause a wide range of health issues.”

» RELATED: These 9 healthy-sounding foods have more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut 

Gut bacteria play an important role in human health and provide the body with essential nutrients. They also help synthesize vitamin K, aid in the digestion of cellulose, and promoting angiogenesis and enteric nerve function, a previous study published in Molecular Sciences noted. 

But negative effects of gut microbial activity may increase risk of chronic diseases caused by dysbiosis. Such health issues may include inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and more. Gut bacteria also affects heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

» RELATED: This is what Atlanta dietitians do to beat their sugar cravings

Oftentimes, people will flock to sugar substitutes in hopes of reducing the sugar or calories in their diet.

And the National Cancer Institute and other agencies believe there’s no widely accepted scientific evidence that the six FDA-approved sweeteners cause cancer or other serious problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, “numerous studies confirm that artificial sweeteners are generally safe in limited quantities, even for pregnant women.”

But the evidence of their effects on the gut microbe is growing. Kushmaro’s recommendation: Stay away from artificial sweeteners altogether.

Read the full study at mdpi.com.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X