Artificial sweeteners are used as a healthier alternative for sugar. They were created to be put in dietary foods to help with diabetes and other such illnesses, however, with the government’s new sugar tax, they are more prominent than ever. You can find them in fizzy drinks, chewing gum, desserts, and even toothpaste. Many even use them as an alternative for normal sugar, for putting in tea or coffee. While they’re a solid alternative for sugar and have a low-to-zero calorie count, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe. Many scientists assumed that because the majority of sweeteners pass through your system and leave unchanged, they didn’t affect the human body in any way. However, this is certainly not the case. (1)
Numerous reports and studies have experimented with a range of artificial sweeteners, which have had mixed results. Some experiments conducted showed that sweeteners can cause strokes, diabetes, dementia, and poor gut health. (2),(3)
A recent study conducted on mice showed that after 11 weeks of being fed aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, their blood sugar levels increased dramatically. It only went back to normal during a course of antibiotics, which destroyed the gut bacteria. (4)
A similar experiment was conducted with humans using saccharin, consuming it daily for five days. The experiment was tested on seven healthy people, and out of those seven, four had abnormally high blood sugar levels, as well as changes in gut bacteria. The remaining three had no changes to their gut bacteria. (4)
Many scientists believe that sweeteners cause the good bacteria in your gut to decrease whilst the bad bacteria in your gut increases, causing poor gut health. (4) The good bacteria, which are named Bacteroidetes, convert sugars to fermentation products which are beneficial to humans. Bad bacteria, named Firmicutes, are said to cause obesity and diabetes in humans.
Insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and obesity are common in humans who have a higher number of bad bacteria than good bacteria in their stomachs. People who consume artificial sweeteners are said to have a similar bacteria ratio as those seen in obese people. If you replace that bad bacteria with good bacteria, it’s said to decrease people’s weight. (2)
So, should we stop using artificial sweeteners? The simple answer is no, but it’s not that simple. It’s important to have a balanced diet ensuring you are getting the right nutrients and bacteria inside your gut to counteract the studied effects of artificial sweeteners. It’s important not to rely on artificial sweeteners alone to lose weight also. Filling your gut with bad bacteria such as Firmicutes will likely cause weight gain and not weight loss. It’s better to do more exercise and eat more fibre than relying on cutting sugar out of your diet.