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Many people opt for ‘diet’ drinks as a conscious choice to try and be healthier, lose weight or prevent weight gain.

Unfortunately, despite how they’re marketed, commercial ‘diet’ drinks likely won’t deliver any of the above. In fact, they’re likely to be very harmful to health.1-5.

‘Diet’ drinks typically contain very low levels of, or no sugar at all, and instead are loaded with artificial sweeteners such as sucralose. As a result, they taste intensely sweet. Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sucrose.

In a 2017 scientific review on ‘the association between artificial sweeteners and obesity’, published in Current Gastroenterology Reports, researchers concluded that artificial sweeteners contribute to:

• Increased appetite
• Increased calorie consumption
• Weight gain
• Changes in the way the body handles sugar
• Chronic health problems such as metabolic syndrome
• Altered gut microbiome

The researchers commented,

“Although artificial sweeteners were developed as a sugar substitute to help reduce insulin resistance and obesity, data in both animal models and humans suggest that the effects of artificial sweeteners may contribute to metabolic syndrome and the obesity epidemic.

Artificial sweeteners appear to change the host microbiome, lead to decreased satiety, and alter glucose homeostasis, and are associated with increased caloric consumption and weight gain.

Artificial sweeteners are marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar and as a tool for weight loss. Data however suggests that the intended effects do not correlate with what is seen in clinical practice.”6

In fact, research suggests that changes in the gut microbiome may be one of the main issues underlining the harmful effects of artificial sweeteners.

The trillions of bacteria that make up the ‘gut microbiome’ are now considered to be so crucial to overall health that they are now regarded almost as an organ in their own right. We’ve learnt so much in the past decade about the widespread impact of the gut microbiome on pretty much every aspect of your health. Needless to say, you need to look after it. The good news is there’s lots you can do to nurture and protect your gut microbiome.

The massive take away message here, is to avoid diet drinks (or any food or drink) containing artificial sweeteners. Your gut bacteria and overall health will thank you for it.

1. Bian X., Tu P., Chi L., Gao B., Ru H., Lu K. Saccharin induced liver inflammation in mice by altering the gut microbiota and its metabolic functions. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2017; 107:530–539. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2017.04.045.
2. Suez J., Korem T., Zeevi D., Zilberman-Schapira G., Thaiss C.A., Maza O., Israeli D., Zmora N., Gilad S., Weinberger A., et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014;514:181–186. doi: 10.1038/nature13793.
3. Uebanso T., Ohnishi A., Kitayama R., Yoshimoto A., Nakahashi M., Shimohata T., Mawatari K., Takahashi A. Effects of low-dose non-caloric sweetener consumption on gut microbiota in mice. Nutrients. 2017;9:560 doi: 10.3390/nu9060560.
4. Palmnas M.S., Cowan T.E., Bomhof M.R., Su J., Reimer R.A., Vogel H.J., Hittel D.S., Shearer J. Low-dose aspartame consumption differentially affects gut microbiota-host metabolic interactions in the diet-induced obese rat. PLoS ONE. 2014;9:e109841 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109841.
5. Bian X., Chi L., Gao B., Tu P., Ru H., Lu K. The artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium affects the gut microbiome and body weight gain in cd-1 mice. PLoS ONE. 2017;12:e0178426 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178426
6. Pearlman M, Obert J, Casey L. The association between artificial sweeteners and obesity. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2017 Nov 21; 19(12): 64. Doi: 10.1007/s11894-017-0602-0

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