Bitter news for artificial sweetener users

Bacteria such as E. coli became toxic when exposed to as little of only one. of the artificial sweeteners.

October 2, 2018 16:44
1 minute read.
Cans of Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi.

Cans of Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi.. (photo credit: REUTERS/CARLO ALLEGRI)


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A collaborative study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore has found that FDA-approved artificial sweeteners are toxic to digestive gut microbes, according to a paper in the journal Molecules.    

The study evaluated the toxicity of six artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame, and acesulfame potassium-k)  using 10 sweetened sport supplements. Bacteria such as E. coli became toxic when exposed to as little as one of the artificial sweeteners.

“We modified bioluminescent E. coli bacteria, which luminesce when they detect toxicants and act as a sensing model representative of the complex microbial system. This is further evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely affects gut microbial activity which can cause a wide range of health issues,” says Prof. Ariel Kushmaro, John A. Ungar Chair in Biotechnology at the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering, a member of the Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev.

Artificial sweeteners are extremely prevalent in food and drink products. They're added to innumerable products, even ones that are not labeled as "diet" or low-calorie," so many people ingest them inadvertently without even being aware of it.

“The results of this study might help in understanding the relative toxicity of artificial sweeteners and the potential of negative effects on the gut microbial community as well as the environment. Furthermore, the tested bioluminescent bacterial panel can potentially be used for detecting artificial sweeteners in the environment,” says Prof. Kushmaro.

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