This is what artificial sweeteners really do to your gut health

Artificial sweeteners like those found in diet soft fizzy drinks can impact your gut health. (Getty Images)
Artificial sweeteners like those found in diet soft fizzy drinks can impact your gut health. (Getty Images)

Every day, many of us are consuming artificial sweeteners without even realising it. In fact, recent research found that almost 3.4 million Brits are consuming more than two products containing artificial sweeteners each day.

Aspartame is the most common artificial sweetener, and it can be found in products such as no-sugar fizzy drinks, chewing gum, mints, and fat-free or low-fat yoghurts.

In fact, a new study from DASH Water found that many products do not disclose the amount of aspartame included, therefore leaving shoppers in the dark about how much they are really consuming.

"It is essential to understand the potential effects of aspartame overconsumption on the human body and why moderation is crucial," nutritionist, Lara Buckle of The Wellness Detective, says.

"Aspartame, a low-calorie artificial sweetener, is widely used as a sugar substitute in various diet and low-calorie products. While regulatory agencies consider it safe for consumption, concerns persist. Overindulgence in aspartame can lead to adverse outcomes."

Last year, the World Health Organisation found that aspartame was 'possibly carcinogenic to humans'. However, the Joint US Food and Agriculture/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) regulator said at the time that aspartame was safe to consume daily limits, and that a nine-stone person would need to drink 12 to 36 cans of artificially sweetened soft drink to see any adverse effects.

Greek yogurt in a ceramic bowl with almonds and honey, oatmeal next to a spoon on a brown wooden background. healthy food. natural yoghurt. breakfast.
Low fat yoghurts can contain artificial sweeteners. (Getty Images)

However, these types of sweeteners can still impact your gut health and have other adverse effects.

The effect of artificial sweeteners on gut health

"Metabolically, aspartame has been linked to disruptions in calorie intake regulation and blood sugar, contributing to insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes," Buckle warns.

She adds that emerging research has indicated that artificial sweeteners like aspartame could affect the composition of the gut microbiota which can impact metabolism and overall health.

"Moreover, individuals sensitive to aspartame can experience adverse reactions such as headaches and migraines," she says. "While such sensitivity is not common, it underscores the need for individualised dietary choices and moderation.

"Over-reliance on aspartame can alter taste preferences, potentially diminishing the appeal of naturally sweet and nutritious foods. Lastly, it can create a psychological effect where individuals feel they can compensate for reduced calorie intake by making poor food choices elsewhere in their diet."

Buckle adds that it is 'vital' to moderate aspartame intake when eating a balanced diet and to prioritise whole, unprocessed foods where possible.

"While aspartame can be a valuable tool for those managing their sugar and calorie intake, a well-rounded diet remains the cornerstone of good nutrition," she adds.

"The absence of detailed information on aspartame content poses challenges for consumers striving to monitor their intake. Our findings underscore the need for greater transparency and disclosure in the food and beverage industry to empower consumers to make informed choices about their dietary preferences."

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