Diet Soda Could Be Wrecking Your Gut Health
A new study on artificial sweeteners found that they're toxic to bacteria that supports digestion.
Soda drinkers may feel like they're making a better choice when they reach for diet products—after all, diet soda has a stamp of approval from organizations like the American Diabetes Association—but mounting research points to a slew of health risks associated with artificial sweeteners.
The latest research suggests that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose, could be toxic to the healthy bacteria living in your gut.
A new study published in the journal Molecules analyzed the toxicity of sweeteners found within ten different sports supplements available to consumers. The study itself was conducted in part by teams of researchers scattered across departments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Georgia, and North Carolina State University. It found that six common artificial sweeteners can inadvertently harm your gut health, which has been linked to many aspects of holistic health, including obesity and bowel cancer.
In a lab trial involving mice, the researchers added fluorescent compounds to each subject's gut, which glow when natural toxins are detected. The bacteria found in microbiomes lit up immediately when exposed to concentrations of six different common sweeteners, meaning they had became toxic—even with just small amounts of sweetener.
“This is further evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely affects gut microbial activity," the study reads. "Which can cause a wide range of health issues.”
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This isn't the first time that adverse effects of artificial sweeteners on gut health have been studied, either. In 2014, NPR highlighted research published in Nature that suggested artificial sweeteners increased risk of type-2 diabetes thanks to alterations in the microbiome. And in 2015, many in the gastroenterology field were looking into the role that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners played in holistic health, Scientific American reports.
But the latest research shows that artificial sweeteners aren't limited to diet sodas—you can find newly approved sweeteners like neotame in many food products that promise lower amounts of sugar. As always, Cooking Light recommends eating natural foods in reasonable amounts instead of substituting with artificial ingredients, which aren't always healthy for you.
Artificial sweeteners have also been linked to substantial weight gain, as well as increasing risk of strokes, dementia, and diabetes.