Excess natural sugar in the diet increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, experts say. That's why more and more people are switching to artificial sweeteners. However, according to new data from American researchers, sweeteners can be a real trap for our body.
It turns out that they can be more dangerous than regular sugar, because they affect the gut microbiome. According to a new study, artificial sweeteners disrupt the microbiome of the small intestine, provoking inflammatory processes in the body. What's worth knowing about sweet foods that don't contain sugar?
Artificial sweeteners: potential risks
New data from American scientists have confirmed: excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame, saccharin and stevia leaf extract can significantly alter the duodenal microbiome. Although artificial sweeteners can help reduce the caloric content of sugar for weight control, experts are concerned about the potential health risks of these substances.
Recent evidence suggests sweeteners don't help with long-term weight loss and may even be linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and sudden death.
In particular, experts point out the negative effects of sugar substitutes on the gut microbiome, which plays a vital role in overall health.
"As physicians, we see many patients who consume artificial sweeteners for a variety of reasons. Many of them report gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal bloating and altered bowel patterns." states Ruchi Mathur, MD, director of clinical research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
To determine the relationship between sweeteners and the small intestinal microbiome, Mathur and colleagues analyzed the duodenal microbiome profiles of patients who consumed artificial sweeteners compared to those who did not.
The results of the study: is aspartame less harmful?
The researchers divided the patients into those who did not consume artificial sweeteners, consumers of aspartame alone, and mixed consumers of artificial sugar substitutes. The results of the study showed that the duodenal microbiome differed significantly between patients who consumed mixed artificial sweeteners and those who did not consume them at all.
Lower microbial diversity was reported among users of mixed artificial sweeteners. "There was no significant change in small intestinal microbial diversity in the group that consumed only aspartame, while the group that consumed a sweetener without aspartame had much lower diversity," Mathur notes.
The researchers also noted that the abundance of 145 bacterial traits differed significantly between artificial sweetener users and those who did not consume them. For example, the prevalence of streptococcus was 2.5 times higher among sweetener users.
In the study, experts concluded that artificial sweeteners significantly affect microbial profiles. "These effects are more pronounced for sweeteners that do not contain aspartame," Mathur emphasizes.
Sugar substitutes disrupt the microbiome of the small intestine
The scientists also analyzed the content of known destroyers of the duodenum, noting that Escherichia and Klebsiella bacteria were surprisingly lower in the groups who took the mixed artificial sweetener and aspartame, compared to those who did not consume it.
The researchers found that metabolic functions of small intestinal microbes in users of artificial sweeteners were significantly different in 386 pathways compared to those who did not consume them.
"We need to confirm our findings in larger studies before making any recommendations," Mathur notes. "At present, aspartame seems to have the least impact on the small intestine microbiome," the researcher adds.
The small intestine is the most important part of the intestinal tract, whose microbiome affects overall health. After all, it is a kind of control center for the production of hormones, amino acids and enzymes necessary for digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
It is the small intestine that signals deficiencies or excesses of various substances in the body. According to new findings by scientists, artificial sugar substitutes disrupt the balance of the small intestine microbiome, which may increase the risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and GI diseases.