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Do calorie-free artificial sweeteners have an effect on gut health? Yes according to a new American study. Reminding us that their consumption is never trivial.
Aspartame, saccharin, stevia… Natural or artificial sweeteners that can replace sugar in our daily lives have become common, even ubiquitous. However, their consumption, made in good conscience, would not be neutral for health.
A new randomized trial, conducted by an American team and published on August 19, has discovered and confirmed that these non-nutritive sweeteners can induce individual and specific changes in the glycemic response, by modifying the intestinal microbiome. A discovery that goes against the belief that non-nutritive sweeteners are biologically inert, and therefore suitable for people suffering from weight gain or diabetes.
Saccharin and sucralose elicit a glycemic response
The study first looked at the glycemic response supposedly prevented by non-nutritive sweeteners. 120 healthy subjects, who do not normally consume sweeteners, were given doses of aspartame, saccharin, stevia, sucralose or glucose and performed glucose tolerance tests. The results, which measure the body’s ability to absorb and utilize sugar, did demonstrate a “significantly elevated” blood sugar response when exposed to the sweeteners saccharin and sucralose.
Sweeteners can alter the gut microbiota
Based on the results of studies in animal models, the researchers hypothesized that NNS may affect human metabolism by altering the gut microbiome. To test their hypothesis, the researchers analyzed participants’ stool microbiome samples before and after consuming aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, and stevia. The results also prove that they would not be neutral and would alter the bacteria in the intestine. Results that would however be highly personalized, and could lead to glycemic alterations in some consumers, but not all, depending on their microbiomes and the sweeteners consumed. Further research should refine these results.
For researchers, the healthiest thing is still to avoid sweeteners in general until you have solid evidence that they are safe. Recalling that the addition of sweetener only increases the daily craving for calories and sugar.
Coca-Cola in the hot seat
The restriction of sugars of all kinds and products that are too sweet seems to be, in any case, a healthy habit to adopt. This is also evidenced by a new Brazilian study on the consumption of sodas over the long term, which would lead to memory disorders and oxidative stress in the brain. The study, currently conducted on rats, subjected to soda consumption for several weeks, suggests that the consumption of soft drinks is associated with neurodegeneration and cognitive disorders, with higher levels of oxidative stress as well. strongly linked to an increased risk of dementia.
In the end, what do these two studies tell us? That it is much simpler, and better for short and long-term health, to simply drink water, and to ease off on sugar, as on sweeteners.