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Artificial Sweeteners and Gut Bacteria

Tigger Montague

Research on mice and humans, published September 17, 2014 in Nature, exposed how artificial sweeteners alter the composition and function of the gut microbiota, thus contributing to an increase in diabetes and obesity.

Holy Cow.   When I think back to the years I drank Diet Pepsi –even for breakfast in college, I can only imagine what my gut microbe population must have looked like, and may partly explain why now I take upwards of 100 billion CFU’s of probiotics daily.

I don’t remember the exact year, or the epiphany but somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-25 years ago, I stopped drinking soft drinks and using artificial sweeteners.

What the recent research points to is that artificial sweeteners increase the Bacteroides bacteria in the gut.  Bacteroides have become resistant to a wide variety of antibiotics, and some species of Bacteroides have acquired resistance to erythromycin and tetracycline.  The increase in the Bacteroides causes a reduction in the Firmicutes bacteria, which makes up the largest portion of  the  human gut micro biome.   Many of the specific bacteria that we are familiar with: bacillus, and Lactobacillus are members of this Firmicutes family.

One of the sobering aspects of this research showed that in the short-term human study, 50% of the participants developed significantly poorer glycemic responses after a 7- day exposure to artificial sweeteners.  Within this group of responders, pronounced compositional changes and imbalances were observed in the gut micro biome.

The more I learn about the micro-biome of the GI tract, and of the soil, the more committed I am to healthy soils and real food.

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