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Artificial Sweeteners Are Toxic to Gut Bacteria, Study Reveals

Recent research into the health effects of artificial sweeteners deliver yet another blow to safety claims. The animal study,1,2,3,4,5 published in the journal Molecules, found all artificial sweeteners currently approved and deemed safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cause DNA damage in, and interfere with the normal and healthy activity of, gut bacteria.

The artificial sweeteners included in this study included:

Aspartame

NutraSweet, Spoonful, Canderel, Equal, NatraTaste Blue

Sucralose

Splenda, Zerocal, Sukrana, SucraPlus, Candys, Cukren and Nevella

Saccharin

Sweet 'N Low, Sweet Twin, Sugar Twin, Necta Sweet

Neotame

Newtame

Advantame

(No brand names)

Acesulfame potassium-k

Sunnette, Sweet One, ACE, ACE K, Sweet 'N Safe

All Artificial Sweeteners Are Toxic to Gut Bacteria

As reported by Business Insider,6 the research team concluded that all of these sweeteners "had a toxic, stressing effect, making it difficult for gut microbes to grow and reproduce." While the authors do not directly refer to them as having antibiotic effects, when something is killing bacteria, that's essentially what's happening.

According to the researchers, the effects on your gut health may in turn affect your body's ability to process regular sugar and other carbohydrates. According to this study, the toxic limit for these artificial sweeteners appears to be around 1 milligram per milliliter (mg/mL).

Ariel Kushmaro, Ph.D., professor of microbial biotechnology at Ben-Gurion University and lead author, told Business Insider, "We are not claiming that it's toxic to human beings. We're claiming that it might be toxic to the gut bacteria, and by that, will influence us."

Sweetener-Specific Effects

While, overall, all six artificial sweeteners were found to have toxic effects on gut bacteria, there were individual differences in the type and amount of damage they produced. For example:

  • Saccharin caused the greatest, most widespread damage, exhibiting both cytotoxic and genotoxic effects, meaning it is toxic to cells and damages genetic information in the cell (which can cause mutations).
  • Neotame was found to cause metabolic disruption in mice, and raised concentrations of several fatty acids, lipids and cholesterol. Several gut genes were also decreased by this sweetener.
  • Aspartame and acesulfame potassium-k — the latter of which is commonly found in sports supplements — were both found to cause DNA damage

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