Artificial Sweeteners Implicated in Dangerous Gut Changes

Certain gut bacteria may induce metabolic changes following exposure to artificial sweeteners

Date: September 17, 2014 Source: Weizmann Institute of Science

This image depicts gut microbiota.

Credit: Weizmann Institute of Science

Artificial sweeteners — promoted as aids to weight loss and diabetes prevention — could actually hasten the development of glucose intolerance and metabolic disease, and they do so in a surprising way: by changing the composition and function of the gut microbiota

Artificial Sweeteners Induce Glucose Intolerance By Altering The Gut Microbiota

Nature (2014) doi:10.1038/nature13793

Received 27 March 2014 Accepted 28 August 2014

Published online 17 September 2014


Non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) are among the most widely used food additives worldwide, regularly consumed by lean and obese individuals alike.

NAS consumption is considered safe and beneficial owing to their low caloric content, yet supporting scientific data remain sparse and controversial. Here we demonstrate that consumption of commonly used NAS formulations drives the development of glucose intolerance through induction of compositional and functional alterations to the intestinal microbiota.

These NAS-mediated deleterious metabolic effects are abrogated by antibiotic treatment, and are fully transferrable to germ-free mice upon faecal transplantation of microbiota configurations from NAS-consuming mice, or of microbiota anaerobically incubated in the presence of NAS.

We identify NAS-altered microbial metabolic pathways that are linked to host susceptibility to metabolic disease, and demonstrate similar NAS-induced dysbiosis and glucose intolerance in healthy human subjects.

Collectively, our results link NAS consumption, dysbiosis and metabolic abnormalities, thereby calling for a reassessment of massive NAS usage.