New study links artificial sweeteners to glucose intolerance and metabolic disease by altering gut bacteria.

sweetandlowThe study, published in the journal Nature, examined glucose intolerance and metabolic disease and the impact of artificial sweeteners on diabetes prevention.

Researchers have noted for a number of years that artificial sweeteners do not seem to assist in weight loss; with some studies suggesting that they may have the opposite effect, leading to glucose intolerance, one of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

The research study analyzed the impact on mice models and the scientists gave mice water laced with the three most commonly used artificial sweeteners, in amounts equivalent to those permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The findings reflect that the mice developed glucose intolerance, as compared to mice that drank water, or even sugar water. Repeating the experiment with different types of mice and different doses of the artificial sweeteners produced the same results these substances were somehow inducing glucose intolerance.

The study findings also determined that gut microbiota react to artificial sweeteners and transfer the microbiota from mice that consumed artificial sweetened to ‘germ-free’ or sterile mice, resulting in a complete transmission of the glucose intolerance into the recipient mice. The research group even determined that removing these bacteria from the body, together with artificial sweeteners, was sufficient to induce glucose intolerance in the sterile mice. A detailed characterization of the microbiota in these mice revealed profound changes to their bacterial populations , including new microbial functions that are known to infer a propensity to obesity, diabetes, and complications of these problems in both mice and humans.

According to Dr. Elinav, “Our relationship with our own individual mix of gut bacteria is a huge factor in determining how the food we eat affects us. Especially intriguing is the link between use of artificial sweeteners — through the bacteria in our guts — to a tendency to develop the very disorders they were designed to prevent; this calls for reassessment of today’s massive, unsupervised consumption of these substances.”


Jotham Suez, Tal Korem, David Zeevi, Gili Zilberman-Schapira, Christoph A. Thaiss, Ori Maza, David Israeli, Niv Zmora, Shlomit Gilad, Adina Weinberger, Yael Kuperman, Alon Harmelin, Ilana Kolodkin-Gal, Hagit Shapiro, Zamir Halpern, Eran Segal, Eran Elinav. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13793

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