Do no-calorie artificial sweeteners have any effect on gut health or metabolism?

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Researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial to investigate the effects of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, stevia, and sucralose on the human metabolism and the gut microbiome.

They found that these non-nutritive sweeteners can induce individual and specific changes in glycemic response via modifying the gut microbiome.

This discovery challenges the popular notion that sugar substitutes have no effect on the human body, and highlights the need for further clinical studies.

After eating foods that contain carbohydrates, blood glucose (blood sugar) levels rise as we digest the food. This post-meal spike in blood glucose levels is known as the glycemic response.

Non-nutritive sweeteners (NNSs), such as aspartame, saccharin, stevia, and sucralose, contain minimal or no carbohydrates and therefore were presumed by scientists not to trigger a glycemic response. This belief that NNSs are biologically inert, coupled with their sweetness, has made them very popular sugar substitutes, especially for the management of diabetes and weight gain.

In a studyTrusted Source published In 2014, Dr. Eran Elinav, an immunologist and microbiome researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and the Microbiome & Cancer Division, DKFZ, Heidelberg, German, along with his team challenged the idea that NNSs are biologically inert. The study established that non-caloric artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance in mice by altering their gut microbiota.

Now, a new study published by Dr. Elinav and his team in the journal CellTrusted Source shows that NNSs have a similar effect on humans.

“We need to raise awareness of the fact that non-nutritive sweeteners are not inert to the human body as we originally believed.” — Dr. Eran Elinav

“This is a very strong and rigorous study and the results are important and timely,” Dr. Michael Goran, Professor of Pediatrics in the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and Program Director for Diabetes and Obesity at The Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, who was not involved in this study, told Medical News Today. Dr. Goran is also the author of Sugarproof.

“Non-nutritive sweeteners are rapidly proliferating across the food supply and across all demographics including children and pregnant women, yet their full and long-term impact on human health has not been extensively studied,” he said.

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