Real sugar can quickly rack up calories, but artificial sugar may cause diabetes.
Scientists are now warning that some artificial sweeteners can alter the body’s microbes in a way that changes blood sugar levels, according to new data published in the journal “Cell” and reported by South West News Service.
The sugar substitutes — which include saccharin and aspartame — are in thousands of diet products such as fizzy drinks, desserts, ready meals and cakes and can also even be found in chewing gum and toothpaste.
Manufacturers have long denied that the substitutions could have adverse effects on the human body, and experts have previously noted that blood sugar levels aren’t affected by them.
However, the new data suggested that caution may be necessary.
“In subjects consuming the non-nutritive sweeteners, we could identify very distinct changes in the composition and function of gut microbes and the molecules they secret into peripheral blood,” senior author and professor Eran Elinav of the German National Cancer Centre told SWNS.
“This seemed to suggest gut microbes in the human body are rather responsive to each of these sweeteners,” he added.
“When we looked at consumers of non-nutritive sweeteners as groups, we found two of the non-nutritive sweeteners — saccharin and sucralose — significantly impacted glucose tolerance in healthy adults.
Some people use sugar substitutes to cut out calories. Getty Images
“Interestingly, changes in the microbes were highly correlated with the alterations noted in people’s glycaemic responses,” Elinav explained.
The professor’s team identified this same phenomenon with mice in 2014. Curious about what would happen with humans, Elinav and colleagues screened more than 1,300 people and found 120 who strictly avoided artificial sweeteners in their everyday lives.
That bunch was broken into six groups — two controls and four who ingested well below the daily allowance of either aspartame, saccharin, stevia or sucralose recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Sugar subs can affect gut bacteria — potentially altering blood glucose levels, scientists say.Getty Images
Microbial samples from subjects were then injected into germ-free mice raised in completely sterile conditions with no gut bacteria of their own.
The experiment results ultimately suggested that microbiome changes in response to human consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners “may, at times, induce glycaemic changes in consumers in a highly personalized manner,” concluded the professor, who added that the effects of the sweeteners may vary per individual due to the unique composition of one’s microbiome.
Previous research has found that artificial sweeteners could have a bad effect on one’s metabolism and appetite control.
A report published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in March also found that vaping could lead to high blood sugar and diabetes.