Bad news for people who consume artificial sweeteners. Products used as substitutes for sugar are acting as a poison to good gut bacteria, a new study has found.
Researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore tested the relative toxicity of six artificial sweeteners, namely aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame, advantame, and acesulfame potassium-k — all of which are used by diabetics or people who are cutting back from sugar consumption. They also tested 10 popular sports supplements that use these artificial sweeteners.
Their findings were published in the journal Molecules.
Artificial Sweeteners Affecting Good Bacteria
For the study, the researchers used bioluminescent bacteria from E. coli to test how it reacts to artificial sweeteners. The bioluminescent bacteria, according to researchers, produce light when it detects toxicants, making it a perfect representative of a complex microbial system for the experiment.
When the researchers exposed bioluminescent bacteria to certain concentrations of artificial sweeteners, they found that the bacteria became toxic. It only takes 1mg/ml for the substance to adversely affect gut bacteria.
This is bad news for people who are using artificial sweeteners because a disrupted gut bacteria carries loads of potential health issues. A previous study has linked artificial sweeteners to diabetes and obesity.
"The results of this study might help in understanding the relative toxicity of artificial sweeteners and the potential of negative effects on the gut microbial community as well as the environment," stated Ariel Kushmaro, of National Institute for Biotechnology in Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and one of the experts involved in the study. "Furthermore, the tested bioluminescent bacterial panel can potentially be used for detecting artificial sweeteners in the environment."
Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad?
All six variants of artificial sweeteners used in the study have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Authority. Certain public health associations have recommended the use of artificial sweeteners as a substitute for sugar, as long as it consumed in right amounts.
Artificial sweeteners are also used in numerous food products and drinks that are advertised as low in sugar or sugar-free for people who are wanting to control their blood glucose levels.
In addition, several studies have warned that artificial sweeteners are emerging pollutants in the environment, contaminating groundwater and drinking water.