June 18, 2019

Artificial sweeteners toxic for gut microbes

05 October 2018, 05:12 | Silvia Roy

Illustrative image of an artificial sweetener

Illustrative image of an artificial sweetener

Researchers looked at a total of six artificial sweeteners, as well as 10 sports supplements with such sweetener products.

The bacteria found in the digestive system became toxic when exposed to concentrations of only one milligramme/millilitre of the artificial sweeteners.

Today, artificial sweeteners are used in a variety of food products and soft drinks that have reduced sugar content.

This new research on artificial sweeteners contributes to a growing body of evidence that suggests they may play a role in some health issues, though more research in humans is needed.

After dosing the E. coli bacteria with artificial sweeteners "hundreds of times", Kushmaro concluded the sweeteners had a toxic, stressing effect, making it hard for gut microbes to grow and reproduce.

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"From our study, we believe that low-calorie sweeteners promote additional fat formation by allowing more glucose to enter the cells, and promotes inflammation, which may be more detrimental in obese individuals", said Dr. Sabyasachi Sen, an Associate Professor of Medicine and Endocrinology at George Washington University, and the study's lead researcher.

The Food and Drug and Administration of America had previously approved artificial sweeteners and sport supplements that have been now found to be toxic to digestive gut microbes, reports a new paper that was published recently in the journal Molecules by researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

In a lab trial, all six of the sweeteners were exposed to bacteria that are commonly found in the gut, and these bacteria were then genetically modified to contain fluorescent compounds which glow when they detect toxins.

Could artificial sweeteners seriously damage your health?

That said, the researchers aren't certain, since they only tested the effects on E. coli and not in people. It only takes 1mg/ml for the substance to adversely affect gut bacteria.

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Researchers are still cautious about all artificial sweeteners, including stevia, because research studies to date have painted a confusing picture of their potential health benefits and harms.

Kushmaro said, 'My recommendation is to not use artificial sweeteners'.

These sweet chemicals have also been identified as environmental pollutants which are increasingly being found in drinking and surface water.

But hey, how else are you going to make sure your coffee tastes good in the morning?

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