IF you’ve switched to diet drinks in a bid to cut down on sugar, then you might want to reevaluate just how healthy your choices are.
Because scientists now claim that sweeteners found in Diet Coke and other soft drinks could damage your gut bacteria.
According to scientists from universities in Israel and Singapore, six common artificial sweeteners – aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame, advantame and acesulfame potassium-k – have all been found to be toxic to gut bacteria.
More and more studies are realising the importance of gut bacteria to a person’s overall health – with bad bacteria linked to a range of diseases from obesity to bowel diseases, even Alzheimer’s.
The study, published in Molecules, looked at the relative toxicity of the sweeteners and ten sports supplements containing them.
Sweeteners create toxic environment
It found that the bacteria in the digestive system became toxic when exposed to tiny concentrations of the sweeteners.
In a lab trial, all six of the sweeteners were exposed to bacteria that are commonly found in the gut, and these bacteria were then genetically modified to contain fluorescent compounds which glow when they detect toxins.
The scientists found that toxins were released when gut bacteria were exposed to each artificial sweetener, and it only took one mg/ml of the artificial sweeteners to turn the bacteria toxic.
A can of Diet Coke contains around 180mg of aspartame.
And that’s led scientists to conclude that: “This is further evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely affects gut microbial activity which can cause a wide range of health issues”.
Good gut health relies on a healthy gut microbiome, which has been associated with everything from digestion, nutrient absorption and immune system function.
Not just fizzy drinks that are harmful
It’s not just sugar-free pop that contains these chemicals either.
Artificial sweeteners are used in loads of food products and drinks that boast reduced sugar content – and the study warns that many of us consume them without even realising.
It’s not just our immediate health that is potentially at risk either.
These sweet chemicals have also been identified as environmental pollutants which are increasingly being found in drinking and surface water.
Professor Ariel Kushmaro said: “The results of this study might help in understanding the relative toxicity of artificial sweeteners and the potential of negative effects on the gut microbial community as well as the environment.
“Furthermore, the tested bioluminescent bacterial panel can potentially be used for detecting artificial sweeteners in the environment.”
Although it’s one of the first studies looking into the effect artificial sweeteners have on gut bacteria, it isn’t the first time that these chemicals have been associated with health risks.
They’ve been associated with weight gain, slashing the chances of getting pregnant during IVF, tripling the risk of a deadly stroke and dementia, and raising the risk of developing diabetes.
MOST READ IN FOOD
And we recently revealed the areas of your home you must keep clean to prevent infection.
Plus this expert says we should be washing our sheets at least once a week – or more if you use lotion.
Meanwhile this mum revealed how to get stains off kids’ clothes using just a £1 spray.
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 782 4368. You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours