Do artificial sweeteners affect our gut microbiome?

The short answer is YES!

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes added to food and drinks to make them taste sweet, in place of refined sugar. They don’t contain calories which is why they’re appealing to those on a weight loss journey.

Artificial sweeteners disrupt the balance of good bacteria in the gut. This is called dysbiosis. Good bacteria protects us against infection, and create important nutrients in the body, as well as regulate our immune system. An imbalance of bacteria means that this stuff doesn’t happen. Dysbiosis has been linked to inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and coeliac disease. Dysbiosis can also affect your weight.

This next bit is controversial and I’ve been called out many times because of my stance on this. There are Nutritionists and Dietitians out there who recommend diet soft drinks to their clients who are trying to lose weight but are fighting a battle against soft drink addiction. True, there are conflicting results from studies saying that artificial sweeteners do or do not promote obesity. Believe what you want. This is not my problem with them. My problem is that we’re putting something processed in a lab in our bodies which offers us no nutritional value whatsoever. I’m sure we can all agree on that.

Artificial sweeteners have no measurable effects on blood sugar levels, so are considered safe for those with Type 2 Diabetes. However, the verdict is still out on whether it increases insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.

Artificial sweeteners have links to an increase in risk factors for heart disease, including stroke. There is little evidence to support this link.

There is also not a lot of research connecting artificial sweeteners and dementia. Some studies say that there is a link.

The trouble is there is not enough research into the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners. Hopefully, research in this area will continue to be funded because we really need definitive answers.

Consuming too much added sugar is harmful, with links to cavities, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, poor mental health and heart disease risk. Reducing your sugar intake can increase your health, reducing your disease risk factors. Artificial sweeteners are considered safe for most people and it can be a good option for those wanting to lose weight. Like with everything, it depends on what your goals are.

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