Sugar replacement may not be the solution to your health concern

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People are more aware about caloric intake than ever before. Nevertheless, global obesity and diabetes rates have steadily increased over the last two decades. It is now evident that additional factors beyond caloric intake contribute to obesity and diabetes.

The gut microbiome plays numerous roles in maintaining our health and well-being. The gut microbiome, or gut flora, refers to the population of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) that reside in the gastrointestinal tract. Our understanding of the gut microbiome has improved in recent years due to technological advancements, such as next-generation sequencing which can decode microbe genomes more rapidly and cheaply than ever before.

In this article, scientists used next-generation sequencing techniques to learn more about the effect of artificial sweeteners on the gut microbiome and overall health. They investigated three FDA (Food and Drug Administration)-approved artificial sweeteners: sucralose, aspartame and saccharin. These three artificial sweeteners are commonly used in the food industry. In this experiment, mice received drinking water supplemented with one of the three artificial sweeteners, or the natural sweetener glucose which served as a control. After as early as eight weeks, glucose intolerance (high blood glucose level) was observed in mice that consumed one of the artificial sweeteners, compared to mice that consumed glucose.

Next, the researchers wanted to determine whether glucose intolerance caused by artificial sweeteners was related to changes in the microbiome. The researchers gave mice saccharin, one of the artificial sweeteners, for a total of nine weeks and started a round of antibiotics in week five. The results showed that the blood glucose level of saccharin-consuming mice treated with antibiotics was as low as glucose-consuming mice (with and without antibiotic treatment). In this case, antibiotics were able to reduce the glucose intolerance caused by the artificial sweetener. Further investigation using next generation sequencing revealed differences in microbial composition in saccharin-consuming mice (treatment) and glucose-consuming mice (control). Specifically, in saccharin-consuming mice, bacteria from Bacteroides genus were enriched, whereas Lactobacilli and other members of Clostridiales were diminished. Furthermore, saccharin was shown to mimic metabolic outcomes previously reported in obese/diabetic mice and humans.

Finally, the researchers conducted experiments to determine whether their findings could be recapitulated in a human population. They followed a large cohort of healthy non-diabetic individuals by monitoring their diets and performing continuous glucose measurements. They found that the consumption of artificial sweeteners disturbed the microbiome of some, but not all participants. These findings suggest that it may be difficult to make sweeping conclusions about the effects of artificial sweeteners in humans; instead, certain individuals may benefit from personalized nutrition plans that consider the composition and properties of their gut microbiomes.

Summary written by: Lucy Nguyen

To read the full article, please click the following link:

Non-caloric artificial sweeteners and the microbiome: findings and challenges

1 thought on “Sugar replacement may not be the solution to your health concern”

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