It’s time to stop eating sweeteners that aren’t real. When everything seems to be going wrong, remember that things could also go much worse. In terms of health, an example of this is when you decide to stop using table or chewed sugar to sweeten your food in favor of sucralose, stevia, or other sweeteners that come in small yellow (Splenda), green (Stevia), or other sachets.
You did this because you had read and even been told by doctors and nutritionists that, according to science, these sweeteners were much healthier and safer than those with calories, even if they were artificial. Because of this, a lot of foods and drinks already have this kind of flavor enhancer in them. They sell like hotcakes because people think they keep them from gaining weight and lower their risk of metabolic diseases like diabetes.
But that’s not the case. There have been a number of recent studies that raise the possibility that some of them could have additional effects at the metabolic level. This is because some of them change the intestinal microbiome, which means they change the way the good bacteria in your digestive system work.
Can artificial sweeteners alter the glycemic response?
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, neotame, and advantame as food additives. Since many of them were thought to be biologically inert when they were first used, they became popular and became a big part of the human diet. Quite the opposite of what happens when you eat caloric sweeteners, which, because they are carbs, can raise your blood glucose levels. This is called the “glycemic response.”
So, experiments were first done on rodents to find out if this type of sweetener was bad for living things. One of them, done by Dr. Eran Elinav in 2014 and published in Nature, showed that a change in the composition and function of the intestinal microbiota caused by eating several common sweeteners led to the development of glucose intolerance. This is very important because these kinds of sweeteners aren’t just used by adults or people with certain diseases anymore. More and more pregnant women and even children are also using them.
For these reasons, the same group of researchers published a new study in Cell magazine called “Personalized microbiome-driven effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on human glucose tolerance.” In this study, they looked at the effects of saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, and stevia on 120 healthy adults for two weeks. Each adult was given a supplement at a dose lower than what the FDA recommends per day. There were two control groups.
Surprisingly, saccharin and sucralose are two sugar substitutes that raise the glycemic response by a lot. This is what you and many other people who use these sweeteners would expect, as would the researchers. The same thing didn’t happen with aspartame, stevia, or the two control groups, which is pretty clear.
Do sweeteners alter the gut microbiome?
Several studies have looked at the effects of some non-caloric artificial sweeteners on glucose metabolism, which, in theory, shouldn’t happen. So far, the researchers have said that the hypothesis has to do with what happens in the gut microbiome.
In this way, the data collected by Jotham Suez, Eran Elinav, and their colleagues did support the idea that all of the non-caloric sweeteners they looked at could change the bacteria in the intestines and the molecules they make. And not just to these, because they change the bacteria in the mouth right from the start.
But don’t worry, one important thing to think about based on the results of these studies is that it seems that these changes in the microbiome caused by artificial sweeteners are very individual. This means that not everyone who uses these sweeteners has the same effect on them. It depends a lot on each person’s microbiome and the type of sweetener they choose. It also depends on how they use sweeteners, such as how much they eat, how often, etc. Also, it goes without saying that there are already other new sweeteners on the market that can be used instead of sugar. or honeys like allulose and monk fruit, which, as far as we know, work well as low-calorie sweeteners and don’t seem to have any other effects on the digestive system or metabolism.