Artificial sweeteners and gut microbiome
Date: 2015-01-20
Author: Felicity Bean AdvDipHSc(Nut&HM)
Access: Public

Artificial sweeteners (AS) were originally introduced into the modern diet to assist in normalising blood glucose levels and reduce caloric intake, without the need to relinquish human desire for sweet foods. It was hoped the addition of AS would help control the growing obesity and diabetes epidemics.

However, current findings have shown a direct correlation between AS and a continual rise in these exact disease states, suggesting they may directly contribute to the problems they were intended to combat.

A recent study looked at the effects of AS on the microbiota of both humans and mice. The authors hypothesised that because AS are non-digestible, they may directly confront micobiota and thus affect the health of the host by modifying microbial composition.

The study tested the effects of water mixed with saccharin on both humans who do not normally consume AS and mice. Several health parameters, including glucose intolerance, were measured.

For six consecutive days, the human group consumed the maximum recommended amount of commercial saccharin, 5mg/kg of body weight. Even though this was short-term exposure, majority of the individuals developed significantly poorer glycaemic responses and glucose intolerance.

They also assessed 381 non-diabetic humans, who had a high intake of AS in everyday life, according to food surveys. Positive correlations between AS ingestion and several metabolic syndrome related parameters were noted, including increased weight and increased fasting blood glucose.

Both the humans and the mice observed did exhibit different microbiome profiles after ingesting AS. Interestingly, humans who did not see changes to their glucose tolerance levels also did not see changes in microbiota composition. The lead author noted, “(we were surprised) that unlike mice, not all humans consuming (AS) will be affected in the same manner. This may be mediated by changes in the microbiota.”

Findings also showed changes in the microbial colonies in mice, which also altered how the microbiota functioned in the regulation of metabolism.

Overall, the results demonstrated that intake of a common AS helped drive the development of glucose intolerance through initiation of structural and functional changes to intestinal microbiota.Collectively, the results showed a link between AS consumption and dysbiosis and metabolic abnormalities.

References 1. Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature 2014;514(7521):181-186.