On 15 May 2021, Anglia Ruskin University in the UK published a study looking into the effects of Artificial Sweeteners Negatively Regulating Pathogenic Characteristics of Two Model Gut Bacteria: E.Coli and E.faecalis.
The study focused on the effects of artificial sweeteners in particular: Saccharin, Sucralose and Aspartame on the gut bacteria Escherichia coli (E.coli) and Enterococcus faecalis (E.faecalis) along with the effects these had on the gut and intestinal wall and how they can lead to damage and serious infections.
Senior lecturer and author of the paper- Dr Havovi Chichger, stated that “the study for the first time showed that some of the sweeteners most commonly found in food and drink can make normal and considered ‘healthy’ gut bacteria turn pathogenic in the human body. This can result in the greater formation of biofilms and the adhesion/ invasion of bacteria into human gut cells, potentially leading to sepsis and multiple-organ failure”. He also added that “there is a lot of concern around the consumption of artificial sweeteners with some studies showing that they can affect the layer of bacteria which supports the gut and gut microbiota”.
The International Sweeteners Association based in Belgium- Brussels responded to the results from the study by stating that “” the in-vitro based study design limits the relevance of any findings that may occur in humans, as such studies do not and cannot reproduce the whole complex, interactive system that is present in humans or animals””. The association also stated that “”current evidence shows no adverse effects of low/no calorie sweeteners on the gut microbiota””.
This study has raised further concerns with consumers around sweeteners, as governments across the world shift in trying to ensure their food industries move away from sugar in their food and beverage products, to reformulating with permitted additives such as sweeteners in a way of attempting to tackle the obesity and diabetes crisis. If the food industry world wide continues to shift to using more sweeteners in food than sugar, it is essential that these are studied further and governments have increased knowledge of the effects of sweeteners versus sugar in food and beverages, in order to better understand the long term implications of both on our health.
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