Artificial sweeteners are supposed to be good for you. Go ahead, ask your doctor or a dietitian. They’ll tell you they are a great way to get your sweet fix without any consequences. When compared to full sugar soda they’re supposed lower your caloric intake, they reduce your risk of being overweight, they reduce your risk of diabetes, they reduce your risk of heart disease and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, that’s not what the recent research is showing.
Non-caloric artificial sweeteners are among the most widely used food additives worldwide, regularly consumed by lean and obese individuals alike. They were introduced over a century ago as means for providing sweet taste to foods without the associated high energy content of caloric sugars, yet supporting scientific data on safety and efficacy remain sparse and controversial. While some data has shown they boost blood sugar very little, other evidence has linked them to type 2 diabetes and weight gain. These are the conditions they were created to prevent. The question then is how do artificial sweeteners create physiologic change capable of making us unhealthy? A new study is providing some input.
Most artificial sweeteners pass through the human gastrointestinal tract without being digested by the person consuming them, thus directly encountering the intestinal microbiota (bacteria), which plays central roles in regulating multiple physiological processes. These artificial sweeteners alter the balance of the bacteria present in our gastrointestinal tract, thus adversely affecting many of these important processes.
This new study titled Artificial Sweeteners Induce Glucose Intolerance by Altering the Gut Microbiota, has demonstrated that consumption of commonly used artificial sweeteners drives the development of glucose intolerance (high blood sugar) through changes in the composition of the intestinal microbiota. Further, the use of antibiotics eliminates these effects. This confirms the bacteria play a central role in the metabolic changes. Now, I’m not saying we should all be on antibiotics. This study used antibiotics to confirm the theory that artificial sweeteners adversely affects physiology through changes in the intestinal microbiome. This is not a viable option in real life as this can have severe consequences long term.
The exact mechanism through which these adverse physiologic changes occur is not completely understood, but it appears to be related to a change in the composition certain types of bacteria. It creates a problem known as dysbiosis (unbalanced growth of bacteria). This dysbiosis results in the same bacterial profile known to be associated with diabetes, obesity, and over-extraction of calories from food.
So, artificial sweeteners create the same problem they are intended to prevent? Yes. So what do you drink, you say? Water. Water is the perfect hydrating liquid. If you are very physically active, a rehydrating drink with electrolytes and some carbohydrate replacement is fine during an intense workout. If you want to have something sweet, have a real soda. But do it only VERY infrequently!
Want to know more? Sign up for our FREE WEBINAR called “Chronic Disease Hates Your Guts!” November 11th at 7PM. We’ll discuss the importance of a healthy gastrointestinal systems as it relates to the most common complaints in medical practice. You don’t want to miss this!