Artificial sweeteners increase risk of disease because they upset the balance of gut bacteria, according to the latest research conducted by Israeli scientists, The Times of Israel reported on Monday.
The sweeteners cause a “breakdown in communication” among gut bacteria, changing the microbiome and rendering the person more vulnerable to disease, they say.
The healthy balance of gut bacteria depends in part on a communication system called quorum sensing, which enables bacteria to detect and respond to cell population density by regulating their own genes, affecting their behavior.
“Artificial sweeteners disrupt that communication, which indicates that artificial sweeteners may be problematic in the long run,” said Dr. Karina Golberg, who led the peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Her team exposed bacteria to FDA-approved sweeteners under lab conditions. It used light-emitting bacteria whose emission of light was reduced if bacterial communication was disrupted. It found that the three most common sweeteners all impeded bacterial communication: saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose.
Three less common sweeteners, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, and neotame, did not have this effect.
Golberg told The Times that the sweeteners “cause problems with digestion, and increased risk of obesity and of type two diabetes, and other health problems.”
Golberg’s colleague Prof. Ariel Kushmaro urges the manufacturers to be more forthcoming about the kind and quantify of these substances in foods.
“There is little accurate labeling of artificial sweeteners on products, which makes it difficult to know how much each product contains,” he said. “Our research should push the food industry to reevaluate their use of artificial sweeteners.”