Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have announced findings which confirm what consumers of artificial sweetners have long feared and scientists long suspected but were not able to prove: they’re not good for you.
Those who seek to avoid the bad effects of sugar by using artificial sweeteners are putting themselves at risk in a different way, according to the study, which found that the additives have a toxic effect on digestive gut microbes.
Bacteria in the digestive system, like E. coli, had a toxic response when exposed to concentrations of even only one mg./ml. of the artificial sweeteners, in the research.
The Israeli-Singaporean research team documented the ill effects by genetically modifying E. coli bacteria to become luminescent when exposed to toxins. They then exposed the bacteria to the artificial sweeteners, yielding the toxic response.
The study focused on six sweeteners, including aspartame, sucralose and saccharine neotame, advantame and acesulfame potassium-k, and 10 sport supplements containing these artificial sweeteners. All are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in food and drinks.
The research findings were published in the journal Molecules.
The gut microbial system “plays a key role in human metabolism,” and artificial sweeteners can “affect host health, such as inducing glucose intolerance,” say the researchers. Additionally, some of the effects of the new FDA-approved sweeteners, such as neotame, are still unknown.
“This is further evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely affects gut microbial activity which can cause a wide range of health issues,” Ariel Kushmaro, a professor in BGU’s department of biotechnology engineering, said in a statement.
Scientists have conducted over 210,000 different studies on the sugar substitutes. However, until now the results have been inconclusive. The new findings won’t settle the matter, either, but they will increase concern over the use of artificial sweeteners, and will undoubtedly stimulate further research.
In the meantime, Kushmaro is unequivocal. Speaking to Business Insider, he said: “My recommendation is& to not use artificial sweeteners.”