February 08, 2023
Like most people, you probably enjoy a few diet pops or snacks with artificial sweeteners every week. Sweeteners like aspartame or saccharin have long been believed to have no significant effect on the human body, making them an easy choice for people looking to reduce their sugar intake. However, new scientific research has a lot to say about artificial sweeteners and their influence on human gut health.
Could these sweeteners change the delicate balance of our insides?
Early research confirmed that these sweeteners affected the microbiomes of mice by changing their glycemic responses. But no one has confirmed their effects on humans until now.
Prof. Eran Elinav and his team studied the stomach flora of 120 individuals over two weeks. They selected people who didn’t regularly use artificial sweeteners and broke them into six groups: two controls and four groups who each ingested either aspartame, saccharin, stevia, or sucralose at levels well below the amounts recommended under FDA daily guidelines.
Getting to the guts of the findings
The team found that two sugar-free substitutes, sucralose and saccharin, can alter the gut microbe and raise blood sugar levels. This effect varies significantly from person-to-person due to differences in individual microbiomes. While we wait for more research on the long-term health impacts, Professor Elinav suggests it’s worthwhile to take a closer look at the labels of your favourite diet pop and consider reaching for a glass of H2O instead.
Read the original article in Cell: Suez et al: Personalized microbiome-driven effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on human glucose tolerance, Cell (August 2022)