Artificial sweeteners lower microbiome function
Diabetics have been using artificial sweeteners (also referred to as non-caloric artificial sweeteners or NAS) for years in the conquest to eliminate refined and natural sugars in their diet to support their blood sugar. Yet a recent study by Nature scientific journal found that not only did NAS also cause a rise in blood sugar just like sugar but NAS also lowered the healthy bacteria that make up a microbiome.
This news is frustrating to those with sugar sensitivities or those who are dieting and don’t choose to eat sugar for weight purposes. Artificial sweeteners have been used for years as a way for people with sugar sensitivities or dieting preferences to enjoy a sweet flavor in their foods without it affecting blood glucose or weight gain. However, as the new studies show, NAS still cause a craving for sweets like sugar and at the same time, lower good bacteria in the digestive tract that keep the gut working well.
So what’s the best alternative?
The best option is to stay away from refined sugar and even natural sugars like maple syrup, agave, or honey if you have a true sensitivity to sugar. These are much healthier than refined or artificial sweeteners but contain just as much actual sugar as refined sources do. They also cause cravings for sweets just like NAS and refined sugar do (2). The best option when you want something sweet is to enjoy a ripe apple or pear. Bananas and a little organic dried fruit are also fine. If you need a sweetener in coffee, tea, smoothies or baked goods, there’s always stevia and coconut sugar which have little to no glycemic effect, though more studies on these sweeteners will need to be done over time in order to see how they affect gut microbiome.