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Will Artificial Sweeteners Harm Your Microbiota?

Artificial sweeteners appear to be toxic to bacteria similar to those that inhabit our intestines. That could potentially be bad news for our health, too.

Artificial sweeteners are extremely popular, since they appear to allow us to break the rules and enjoy sweet drinks or treats without gaining weight. The FDA has approved a number of artificial sweeteners, and most people assume that these products are safe.

How Safe Are Artificial Sweeteners?

A new study suggests, however, that compounds such as aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda), saccharine and acesulfame potassium (Sunett) may harm the bacteria that live in our digestive tracts (Molecules, Sept. 25, 2018). The researchers, working in Israel and Singapore, discovered that six such non-nutritive sweeteners slow the reproduction of bacteria that light up in the presence of toxins. The indicator bacteria showed luminescence even at low levels of sweetener.

If Artificial Sweeteners Are Toxic to our Gut Flora, They May Not Be Good for Us:

Ten sports supplements containing artificial sweeteners were also toxic to these bacteria, known collectively as microbiota. We rely on our microbiota for all sorts of health benefits, including digestive tract health. In fact, the proper balance of microbiota seems to control both constipation and diarrhea. Consequently, the research raises the possibility that artificial sweeteners might also be bad for us over the long run.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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