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The problem of sweeteners: they replace sugar, but they make the gut sick


A high consumption of sweeteners in the diet can damage intestinal health and thus cause damage to the immune system and make us more prone to chronic diseases.

Photo: Image by congerdesign on Pixabay / Pixabay

Nowadays it is very common to find artificial sweeteners that work as one of the most popular substitutes for refined sugar to sweeten any drink and food. In a general way, we can say that any sweetener is of natural or artificial origin, they are substances that are added to give a sweet taste to a food or product that would otherwise have a bitter taste or that you simply want to sweeten. The truth is that in recent years, in a particular way, the devastating health consequences related to a high consumption of chemical sweeteners. In fact, a new English study has come to light and it comes to give us one more reason to think twice before consuming this type of sweetener.

Researchers at Anglia Ruskins University, one of the largest British universities in the East of England, discovered that common artificial sweeteners can make perfectly healthy gut bacteria get sick and invade the gut wall. Of course, this type of reaction in the intestinal system is not only related to possible digestive problems, it also increases the risk of other more serious health conditions. It should be mentioned that specifically, it is the first research focused on documenting the pathogenic effects of saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame (three of the most popular artificial sweeteners) in two varieties of gut bacteria, Escherichia coli and E. faecalis.

The reality is that there is currently a lot of concern around the consumption of artificial sweeteners. Complementarily, on the other hand, as a very trendy topic, there has been a lot of talk about the importance of optimal gut healthIt is no secret to say that it is an aspect that is directly related to the health of the immune system and the prevention of diseases. This study comes to show us how sweeteners can affect the layer of bacteria that support the intestine, known as the gut microbiota.

According to statements by the study’s lead author, Dr. Havovi Chichger, Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences at ARU; this study is the first to show that some of the sweeteners most commonly found in foods and beverages (saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame) they can cause normal and ‘healthy’ gut bacteria to become pathogenic. These pathogenic changes are believed to include increased biofilm formation and increased adhesion and invasion of bacteria in human intestinal cells.

Although it is important to mention that previous research had already shown a link between artificial sweeteners and certain changes in the amount and especially the type of bacteria in the intestine. However, this latest molecular work takes things a step further by revealing that sweeteners can also make intestinal bacteria are infectious. In such a way that once diseased, the bacteria adhere, invade and finally kill the Caco-2 cells that line the wall of the intestine.

The study posed an initial question focused on the consumption of diet sodas, based on the average consumption per person Can two cans of diet soda cause gut health problems? The scientists’ explanation is as follows: After passing through the intestinal wall, bacteria like E. faecalis usually enter the bloodstream and accumulate in the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen. Eventually, this can lead to a number of infections, including sepsis. For the three sweeteners analyzed, the amount in two cans of diet soda was sufficient to significantly increase the accumulation of E. coli and E. faecalis in intestinal Caco-2 cells.

Among the most worrying consequences translated into human health, it was found that these damages in intestinal health generate a greater accumulation of toxins and thus increases the risk of suffering from various diseases. Especially those related to damage to the immune system and associated with the effect of free radicals in the body, in such a way that we will be more likely to acquire the flu, suffer from obesity, diabetes, altered emotional states and other degenerative conditions. While all three sweeteners caused pathogenic gut bacteria to invade Caco-2 cells found in the gut wall, there was an exception with saccharin that showed no significant effect on E. coli invasion. These types of changes lead to the gut bacteria itself invading and causing damage to the gut, which can be related to infections, sepsis (the overwhelming and extreme response of the body to an infection) and multi-organ failure.

By now we all know about the consequences of excessive sugar consumption. It is one of the main factors in the development of conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, based on this many people tend to normalize intake of artificial sweeteners and consider them a viable calorie-free alternative. Today with so much information about it, it is important that we increase our knowledge about sweeteners versus sugars in the diet to better understand the impact on our health.

However, the findings meet with objections from the International Sweeteners Association (ISA), which states that current evidence shows no adverse effects of low-calorie or no-calorie sweeteners on the gut microbiota. So they reject the study findings in their entirety. Undoubtedly it is a subject that will continue to give rise to new research and studies, fortunately we currently have at our disposal a lot of information that helps us make the best decisions and create a new vision about how food can be our best or worst medicine. .

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