Artificial sweeteners are synthetic substitutes for sugar. When they're added to food and drink, they provide a sweet taste without any extra calories. You'll find them everywhere, including in candy, soda, and chewing gum. While their lack of calories make them popular among dieters, there's more to these sugar substitutes than meets the eye. There's a cost to consuming artificial sweeteners: here's what you need to know.
Artificial Sweeteners and Your Gut
Your body relies on a precise balance of bacteria in your gut. Beneficial bacteria helps protect against infection and regulate your immune system. If there are fewer healthy bacteria in your gut than normal, your body enters dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is linked to many digestive issues, including irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and celiac disease.
What does this have to do with artificial sweeteners? More than you might think. Researchers are still parsing out how artificial sweeteners impact gut bacteria, but it's clear that the impact is there. Studies have found that people who eat artificial sugar have different bacteria profiles in their gut than people who don't. This difference in gut ecosystems can lead to dysbiosis, potentially putting people at risk of disruptive digestive issues.
Research into how artificial sweeteners impact gut health is ongoing. However, there is clear evidence that people who eat artificial sweeteners have a different bacteria profile than those who don't. There seems to be variation from person to person as to how much of an impact artificial sweeteners have, but for those people impacted, the consequences are very real.
Other Problems Caused By Artificial Sweeteners
Your gut health isn't the only area impacted by artificial sweeteners. Eating synthetic sugar substitutes may have an impact on your weight as well. While research is still ongoing, both observational and experimental studies have found a link between artificial sweeteners and weight gain. This is especially concerning considering that these sweeteners are often consumed by people who are trying to lose weight.
It's also worth noting that artificial sweeteners are sometimes difficult to spot. Sugar substitutes can hide under dozens of different names. Aspartame, erythritol, isomalt, maltitol, saccharin, sorbitol, and xylitol are just a few. Keep a sharp eye out while shopping to avoid ingredients you're unsure about. Even better, opt for natural products you trust to ensure your gut (and the rest of you) stays healthy.
We're still in the early stages of research into the impacts of artificial sweeteners, but one thing is clear: choosing synthetic substitutes can lead to negative consequences for your health. Choose foods and supplements that sweeten naturally to enjoy healthy foods that taste good too.