Previous studies have indicated that artificial sweeteners (AS) alter intestinal microbiota and cause glucose intolerance, which is a condition that precedes type-2 diabetes. In a 2018 study*, obese, glucose-intolerant mice with AS-altered microbiota underwent fecal transplants from lean mice. Populating their gut with new bacteria caused the mice to lose weight. These fecal transplants demonstrated that AS alter intestinal microbiomes which lead to poor health. Therefore, even though the scientific community has not formally concluded that AS cause conditions such as weight gain and diabetes, the research does show that they are disrupting the delicate symbiosis that controls our nutrient intake.
The figure details the weight gain of obese mice, those that were obese but underwent a fecal transplant, and lean mice with normal microbiota. Eight of each type were tested during the 17 week- long experiment. Between the lean and obese subjects, there was a sizeable difference in weight, being about 45%. The obese and transplant-recipient mice began the study at similar weights, and yet their weights diverged over the 17 weeks. These data however, do not indicate that the transplant had a 100% success rate. The transplant recipients’ weight was not comparable to the lean mice by week 17, which could indicate that the altered microbiota were not the only cause of the mice’s obesity. While a compelling thought, that assumption is bold considering that the transplant mice were about 11% more lean than their obese counterparts. Even without a return to a lean weight, the mice’s weight reduction is significant enough to conclude that the microbiota were directly involved with their changes in mass.
Bidu et al. support previous findings that AS are changing the bacteria in our intestinal tracts—putting us at risk for obesity. With this study showing that these conditions can be reversed, there is no denying that AS are changing the framework of our bodies. Having this kind of knowledge should make people wonder how they are treating their body the next time they drink a Diet Coke or chew sugar-free gum. Are these changes really worth the lack of calories?
*Bidu, Célia, et al., American Diabetes Association, vol. 67, no. 8, 2018
**Suez, Jotham et al., Nature, vol. 514, no. 186, 2014