Artificial sweeteners are not the healthiest substitute for sugar, as various studies have shown. Research out of Israel now highlights just how bad they are for the gut.
Researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found that six common artificial sweeteners get in the way of gut bacteria communicating with each other. While they are not actively killing bacterial species, the communication block could promote digestive diseases and discomfort.
“The fact that bacteria use quorum sensing to communicate with each other revolutionizes our understanding and enables us to provide clearer answers. Artificial sweeteners disrupt that communication, which indicates that artificial sweeteners may be problematic in the long run,” says lead researcher Dr. Karina Golberg in a press release.
The team studied artificial sweeteners’ effect on the gut by studying those used in sports supplements. Since athletes monitor their intakes, the researchers could discern how much of the artificial sweeteners they were taking daily. They used bioluminescent indicator bacteria whose light would fade if bacterial communication was disrupted.
Of the six FDA-approved artificial sweeteners, they found that aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin that significantly inhibited bacterial communication. At least one of the three was found in all the tested sports supplements.
“There is little accurate labeling of artificial sweeteners on products, which makes it difficult to know how much each product contains. Our research should push the food industry to reevaluate their use of artificial sweeteners,” says Professor Ariel Kushmaro, head of the Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology in the university’s Department of Biotechnology Engineering.
The study was recently published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.