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January 8, 2024

Artificial Sweeteners Mess Up the Gut Microbiome

artificial sweeteners
photo courtesy of Pixabay

Artificial Sweeteners Change the Gut Microbiome

Don’t let the use of artificial sweeteners change your gut microbiome. In our post Gut Microbiome: How it Keeps You Healthy we discussed the importance of the gut microbiome. One hundred trillion microorganisms comprise the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome plays a huge role in our immune system. The gut communicates with the brain through neurotransmitter made in the gut with the help of the microbiome.

Nearly everything we eat affects the make up of the gut microbiome either positively or negatively. And, one of those things that affects the quality of our microbiomes is the consumption of artificial sweeteners.

Sugar Substitutes

Sugar substitutes were developed to reduce caloric intake of sugars with hopes of facilitating weight loss. There is little evidence, however, that artificial sweeteners help lose weight. But, what they do do, is mess up the microbiome which may be one reason why use of artificial sweeteners may actually increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

About 140 million Americans use artificial sweeteners. They do so to reduce their sugar intake. Sugar triggers the release of insulin and insulin is a fattening hormone.

Here’s what we know about sugar substitutes and the gut microbiome. Those who use aspartame (Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), Sucralose (Splenda), and Stevia have different bacterial colonies in their guts than those who do not use artificial sweeteners. Those who use artificial sweeteners either have less healthy microorganisms or microorganisms that produce toxins harmful to the body.

A controlled study analyzed the gut microbiomes of 44 individuals who used artificial sweetness (9 used aspartame and 35 used non-aspartame sugar substitutes) to a group of 55 who did not use artificial sweeteners.  Those who used non-aspartame sugar substitutes had less healthy bacteria in their gut than those who avoided sugar substitutes. Those who used aspartame had similar bacteria as those who avoid sugar substitutes but their microbiomes produced a toxin called cylindrospermopsin.

The cylindrospermopsin pathway has harmful effects on the liver and nervous system and is classified as a cancer-causing agent.

Some call the gut microbiome the second brain and we are learning more and more about the micro-organisms that reside in our gut and their role in helping us maintain good health. Do yourself a favor and eliminate artificial sweeteners from your diet.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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