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The body metabolizes sugars, producing ATP (short for adenosine triphosphate) which is the fuel used by cells to perform their various functions. When glucose isn’t used by cells, it can turn into fat and deposit in different areas of the body – which is why people who aim to lose weight turn to artificial sweeteners to sweeten their food. 
Non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) are extremely popular owing to their perceived ability to aid with weight loss and diabetes prevention. Having no calories, they replace sugar and therefore lower calorific intake. 
However, an increasing body of evidence is finding that these chemicals have other undesired effects. While the position of the US Food and Drug Administration on NAS is that they are safe for public consumption,  a recent study published in the prestigious Nature indicates that they may even be triggering the health problems they have been employed to help revert.
NAS and Gut Microbes
The study, entitled “Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota”, was published in 2014 and revealed that NAS intake changed metabolic pathways of microbes in the intestines, which contributed to glucose intolerance.  Remember, artificial sweeteners don’t get absorbed by the body. Their only purpose is to sweeten food and with long-term use, affect how the body responds to normal sugar or glucose.
According to Suez and his fellow researchers, when NAS go through the intestines, they come into contact with normal gut bacteria and changes their composition. Mice were fed three of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners – (1) aspartame, (2) saccharin, and (3) sucralose for 11 weeks. Afterwards, the mice were given high-glucose drinks and their blood was tested.
The results were surprising: in the control group (mice who weren’t fed sweeteners), there was a sudden spike of blood glucose levels followed by a decline as the pancreas responds by producing insulin, promoting glucose uptake by the cells. This is normal. However, in the experimental group (mice who were fed NAS), the spike was higher and the decline longer – the levels even resembled the response seen in people with diabetes.
The researchers furthered the study by acting on a hypothesis – maybe the microbes in the gut had something to do with it. They gave the mice antibiotics to kill off gut bacteria and once again fed them the high glucose drink. This time, the results were normal. When they took samples of the experimental group’s gut bacteria, it turns out that there was an increase in the types of bacteria that fed on NAS – the same types of bacteria that have been linked to obesity. 
NAS and Humans
Suez, et. al.  also involved humans in their study and found an association between NAS and glucose intolerance, as well as differences in their gut microbe profiles. Furthermore, they asked seven volunteers to consume the maximum acceptable daily intake of saccharin and were tested afterwards. Four of them showed the same spike and decline in the experimental group of mice, as well as changes in their gut microbes. The same results have been found in other studies as well.  If you are using artificial sweeteners to control your weight or blood sugar, maybe it’s time to take a more natural route. You could for example simply not add sweeteners to things at all – it doesn’t take long to get used to the change in taste and you may end up preferring it.
 National Institutes of Health. Sucrose. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/sucrose
 Mayo Clinic (2014). Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes. https://mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/artificial-sweeteners/art-20046936
 National Cancer Institute (2009). Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer. https://cancer.gov/cancertopics/causes-prevention/risk-factors/diet/artificial-sweeteners-fact-sheet
 Suez, J., et. al. (2014). Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbia. https://readcube.com/articles/10.1038/nature13793
 Schwiertz, A., et. al. (2009). Microbiota and SCFA in lean and overweight health subjects. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19498350
 Yang, Q. (2010). Gain weight by “going diet”? Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings. https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892765/
 Roberts, J. (2015). The paradox of artificial sweeteners in managing obesity. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25609450
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